Ways to Keep Students Engaged in the Digital Learning Era
Advances in technology have allowed for the development of online education, and the pandemic has accelerated its usage; however, student engagement in online learning can be a challenge. Good news! There are ways to help your kids thrive during remote learning. Why is student engagement important? When online learning takes the form of repetitive lessons and digital worksheets, students can lose interest in both the material, specifically, and in school, in general. Students need thorough, interactive instruction, plenty of opportunity for practice, and assessments on a regular basis.
Time4Learning understands this and follows this approach in order to motivate students and encourage their own natural curiosities. They will work hard because the work doesn’t feel like work. Engaging students in distance learning is more difficult than in face-to-face instruction, but it is possible—and it is necessary.
How do you keep students engaged in online learning? Here are five creative ways to engage students when learning remotely and how Time4Learning helps meet that need:
Incorporate Interactive and Game-Based Materials
The first step to keeping students engaged with online learning is to incorporate as much interactivity as possible. Regardless of your child’s age, an interactive program will not only make learning fun, but also keep them engaged and motivated. This can be especially useful for subjects and topics that are either challenging for your student or less favored. Perhaps your child doesn’t enjoy learning math. If you’re looking for ways to get them excited about learning a new concept or helping a challenging one stick, trying a different approach may do the trick.
- Ditch the pencil and paper and have your student try a Time4Learning math lesson. The lessons provide step by step instruction on the specific concept your student is currently working on. To master the concept being learned, your student will perform additional activities before moving on to the next concept. Math is foundational and if certain basic skills are not mastered they will struggle with math in later grades.
- If your student is working on mastering their math facts, try introducing a fun online, game-based solution. Time4MathFacts incorporates games, fun characters, and a motivating reward system to help students learn math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Online materials serve to help students gain a thorough understanding of important concepts as they are engaged and interacting with the program in a variety of ways, which leads to our next tip.
Diversify Content Materials
Mastering how to engage students in remote learning takes time and effort, but perhaps the most important step is to vary instructional materials. For example, a good online program will present information in different ways, ask students to practice knowledge and skills through several types of instructional tasks, and vary the ways in which student learning is assessed. Here are some examples of how to engage students in remote learning through varied materials:
- Instruction: Lectures/presentation, videos, audios, images, texts, modeling/demonstrations, inquiry-based tasks, questioning, graphic organizers, and songs. Time4Learning offers a wide variety of instructional materials for students like the ones mentioned above and focuses on providing age-appropriate instruction. For example, younger students in the elementary grades will learn by way of animated characters; as students progress, teachers guide students through video lessons that incorporate note-taking and other tasks.
- Practice: Worksheets (i.e., questions, problems), games, video creation, debates/discussions (i.e., through online discussion boards), illustrations (i.e., digital artwork), short essays, field trips, and cooperative/collaborative learning (yes, even online!). Time4Learning provides students with practice activities after each lesson to help them apply learned concepts. Students have the option to repeat the activities and lessons, some of which provide optional worksheets.
- Assessments: Quizzes and tests (multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, short answer, essay), papers, projects, narrations, portfolios. Time4Learning assesses students on a regular basis. Many subjects include quizzes after lessons and chapter tests, which our curriculum allows students to retake. Additionally, writing assignments are provided, and parents have access to scoring guides and rubrics to help with grading.
While varying content materials, there is also something to be said for consistency. You don’t want one “module” to take three minutes and another to take 45, and students will like knowing what to expect in a general sense. Provided you keep parts like the daily or weekly schedule consistent, diversifying instructional content can be done in a way that will maximize student engagement in online learning.
An online curriculum like Time4Learning provides an excellent opportunity for personalizing your child’s learning. Regardless of what you are using as your main curriculum, you can always supplement any online program with your own instructional tasks and materials such as textbooks, documentaries, and printables, or combine different online learning platforms or courses. Although Time4Learning is a comprehensive curriculum that correlates to all state standards, many parents supplement with a number of outside materials and resources to provide their students with a well-rounded learning experience.
There are many benefits of project-based learning (PBL) one of them is that it naturally encourages the development of creative ways to engage students in what they are studying. The great thing about PBL is that there is no limit to what students can learn. Whether it’s something they have been curious about for a while, or a topic in their current lessons that they want to explore further.
As a comprehensive curriculum that teaches math, language arts, science, and social studies, homeschoolers have a wide range of information to help them get started with project-based learning. The best way to begin is with a question or a problem. Students can use our online lessons as a starting point. Once they have their question, students can plan their project and decide what the best way is to answer the question or solve the problem at hand. The next step, and probably the most time consuming will be the research portion. Students can use just about any source of information (including Time4Learning lessons) to learn more and come up with an answer or solution. The last step involves putting all the information together and presenting it to siblings, parents, relatives, or friends. This can be in the form of a visual presentation, computer program, diorama, etc.
It’s important to keep in mind that although having a timeline can help, projects are usually long term and can last several weeks or even months depending on the topic. Additionally, while you should be there to provide guidance when your child needs assistance, it’s best to let them work on their own. The skills they will gain will help them tremendously as students, and even down the road as adults.
Virtual Science Labs
One of the most challenging subjects to learn remotely can be science when the hands-on piece is missing. However, technology has allowed for exciting ways to experience science in a virtual way. When students are learning science remotely through a variety of instructional methods, they gather information from different sources. However, they need to experience how the knowledge they gained applies in the real world. Adding virtual science labs to online science classes gives meaning to the “classroom” learning.
Time4Learning’s middle school and secondary science courses incorporate virtual labs. For example, in a middle school chemistry course, students experience a density lab where they take measurements and read balances online, virtually fill a container with water and then place an object in the container, and then virtually measure displaced water in order to estimate volume of the irregularly-shaped object. Students answer questions along the way and receive feedback and then are asked to write up a lab report following the scientific method. These students do not only learn the density formula; they experience it virtually and are able to understand it on a much deeper level.
Virtual Field Trips
Even if you can’t physically visit a field trip destination, , you can also take part in virtual field trips. Because of the pandemic, more and more museums and other field trip “hot spots” are adding virtual experiences. Many also include lessons and guides for preparing for the field trips. Just like science labs, virtual field trips allow students to deepen and summarize learning in a way that is much more engaging than some typical online classroom activities.
Some may argue that distance learning cannot take the place of face-to-face instruction. While there may be components that differ, student engagement does not have to be lost during remote learning. Using technology as a learning tool can be just as stimulating and motivating as in a typical classroom, and some students are well adapted for learning online. Our job as parent educators is to make sure that our children are engaged in their learning whether they are in traditional schools, doing school-at-home through traditional schools offering hybrid or fully remote learning, or homeschooling through online schools/curriculum or any other method. An important goal is for students to become lifelong learners, and they must be engaged as elementary, middle, and high school students to get there!
Know of other ideas for increasing student engagement in online learning? Share them in the comments below…