How to Improve Student Engagement in Online Learning

Many schools this year have been forced to switch to online or distance learning because of the pandemic. While distance learning is not a new concept, both teachers and students have had to adapt to having their lessons online. One of the significant problems that teachers have encountered is student engagement. Imagine a child who has been going to school learning together with his friends. Suddenly, this child is supposed to attend class on his own, in their living room or study area. Can you imagine the boredom? The lesson is probably pre-recorded so students can access the lesson at a time of their choosing. Learning from wherever you are in the world is excellent, but how can the experience be more indulging and participatory for students?

1.Promote Active learning

Active learning is described as hands-on learning. During online lessons, students are either on their beds or on a chair. The idea of active learning is to get them out of both. Maybe not literally, but you get the point. Most international schools emphasize active learning, especially for younger kids whose attention span is short. Have the students participate in the community, for example, to interview people outside and gather data for a particular subject. WebQuests can prove to be functional in achieving active learning. WebQuest activities promote critical thinking and creativity among students.

2.Give them a sense of ownership

People tend to be more interested in what they are doing when they have a say in it. You can offer self-assessment opportunities for students. Self-assessment encourages learners to be responsible for their learning. A student might opt to dive deeper into a lesson because they already know the basics based on their self-assessment test. Give them the option to do so without consequence.

Another way to give students a sense of ownership is to allow them to choose their assignments and delivery method. Of course, you can have a shortlist of questions and methods for them to pick one of each. Lastly, you can have a student forum where learners can give feedback about the lesson and the course in general. Let them know that their opinions matter by replying to them within the forum and making relevant changes to the class. It is common for teachers to wait until the end of the course to ask for feedback but try doing it at the introduction stage.

3.Use diverse teaching methods

Do not limit yourself with regard to how you deliver information to your students. Use all the methods available to you that come with e-learning. You can use video, text, audio, and PowerPoint presentations. Don’t just pick one and die with it. Switch it up from time to time to keep learners intrigued. Podcasts are highly effective because people tend to connect more with the person talking in their ear and listen to what they say.

4.Become a storyteller

Everybody loves a good story. Stories can be impactful when done right. Again, feel free to use all technological resources at your disposal. For example, you can use the caption ‘Breaking News’ when introducing a new topic. You can also get one of your course alumni to share their experience in a particular lesson.

Another way you can utilize storytelling is by assigning case studies. Have your students read case studies have them put themselves in the shoes of the hero. Let them share how they would handle the situation. This can work well in a law or ethics class. Stories encourage empathy and collaboration, even when students are not in the same room.

Give assignments that require a group effort or, better yet, do a fishbowl activity during the lesson. A fishbowl activity splits the class into two groups. One group works together to solve a problem while the other observes and notes how the first group does it. Active learning ensures that students participate and are alert throughout the lesson.


Gamification is a great way to encourage students to go the extra mile. It can be hard to hold students accountable when it comes to online learning. However, giving a digital badge or certificate when a student completes a lesson can boost morale and increase engagement. Some enthusiastic educators have gone further to create a full video game experience for online learners, but that is unnecessary. Rewarding students with badges or certificates also make students feel appreciated and valued. It also shows that what they are doing is essential.

Online learning can be lonely for students. The same way you should create a relationship with your student in the classroom is the same way you should make the e-learning experience personal. Engagement should not only be with the teacher during the lesson but also with other students. Learners need to know that they are part of a broader community.


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