Engaged students are often those who make a firm commitment to learning. They are proud to acquire knowledge and make an added effort in understanding course material and applying it in their lives wherever possible.

Due to Covid-19, many colleges and universities are being challenged with keeping student engagement levels high while they transition into a virtual course format or offer a hybrid version of virtual classes and a re-engineered version of their in-person teaching.

In this document, we will explore some of the ways colleges and universities can foster engagement, regardless of the format.

Focus on Active Learning

When you use engagement strategies that are based on learning theories that emphasize active learning, the chances that you will be more effective are significantly higher. When colleges and universities focus on helping their students to do something with what they learn instead of simply learning something, the results are not only be impressive, but they also encourage students to learn and perform better.

Hence you should encourage your students to be cognitively and physically active for them to get the best out of your courses as an educational institution.

Instruct your students to collaborate on group assignments, to solve problems together or individually, participate in experiential learning projects that involve dialogue and shared research.

There are various kinds of presentations and debates, pop speeches and competitions that are used in schools to teach students that active learning is better than passive learning.

However, it is important to understand that active learning activities tend to reward extroverts and introvert may suffer as a result. Whatever you decide, ensure that you consider all types of students.

Set clear expectations

When you have too much complexity in your engagement expectations, in your course syllabus and your course introduction presentations, you tend to decrease student enthusiasm.

There should be simple, clear, and consistent requirements for how students should engage in the classroom and online, with instructors, peers, and with their work that are highly effective.

Adding layers of criteria, exceptions, and complex deadlines creates a heavy cognitive load. Use simple recurring deadlines, with clear instructions.

One example is, “Post one question and three responses every week by Friday.”” This enables students to develop an enthusiastic habit of inquiry while also generating a level of curiosity.

Encourage goal-setting, competition…..and failure.

Incentivize your students to set goals for the course and to set milestones that will allow them to measure their progress. By doing this, you and your students can take the ownership of their engagement, and they become enthusiastic and motivated.

The best way to push students to become more proficient and perform better is to let them choose the path they would like to take. Now that each student has decided on what goals they should set, the next possible step is to create healthy competition between students.

Ask questions like – which students are likely to reach the milestones quickly? How quickly can they reach the next milestone? What are some things that students can do to set a personal best and then beat that record the next time?

This approach tends to take some of the student’s focus off the grades and more on ensuring learning outcomes have a positive impact on their interest and engagement.

Lastly, create scenarios in which the possibility of failure is real. If the academic environment is not being used as a place to grow ideas, experiment, and learn from failures, then it should be seen as an opportunity for learning and failing, without having the negative outcomes that are often associated with real-world failure.

Use engaging formats

Video and multimedia presentations are vital for enabling people to succeed in online and on-campus courses. Video in social media has managed to make a fuller impact on today’s students, even beyond what television did with prior generations and that is mainly due to the fact that it is two two-way communication and engagement can bee seen and measured.

By combining these formats, including audio presentations, text documents, and note-taking, etc., it becomes easier to break the monotony that often leads to decreasing engagement and interest in courses.

Promote student autonomy

One of the most difficult things for instructors to do as they transition from their campus to the virtual world is giving up some of the control in the classroom. You should not micromanage your online work for accuracy, grammar, and compliance with rules. Instructors should avoid moderating posts and intervening when incorrect answers are posted.

A good approach is to step back and look for active and meaningful engagements. Interact enough to facilitate, (and sometimes monitor rulebreakers) rather than lead discussions. This ensures that students become autonomous and have a sense of ownership, resulting in greater student motivation, which ultimately leads to improved engagement and performance.

Encourage feedback and sharing information

It is important that today’s students can know, qualitatively, how they are performing. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the most important areas that need to be improved?

When, in addition to summative exams, there are formative assessments with actionable information as to what students can do to improve, that creates student ownership of their performance, in both virtual and on-campus environments.

Test, Evaluate & make continuous improvements

Most of the top colleges and universities today consider themselves to be works in progress. It is possible that goals never fully get accomplished, because so many of the factors that affect the outcome of educational programs and student performance change more quickly than they have ever done in the past and this has been even more evident in the last few years due to Covid-19 that pushed organizations all over the world to become more agile and innovate.

By using rigorous self-testing, evaluation, and continuous improvement, you can help your students stay engaged and perform at their best.

Amber Cousins