Ways to engage students to make learning effective

Ways to engage students to make learning effective

Shorter videos followed by tasks that require the student to demonstrate learning, curriculum-aligned games and interactive quizzes right after a lesson are some of the ways to keep the student actively involved

In the online learning environment, the key to a smooth and effective learning experience is being an engaged learner. A student is said to be an ‘engaged learner when the student’s participation — either through discussion or collaboration to solve a problem — contributes to his or her learning and also encourages further involvement, the student is said to be an engaged learner. 

Differing levels of engagement

Education psychologists have hinted at two different types or levels of engagement in online learning: behavioural engagement that requires the learner to physically manipulate or interact with the interface through actions such as a downloading notes, completing a puzzle and cognitive engagement where the students are encouraged to think about the learning material and work through it at a much deeper level. The application-based questions and illustrations that effective teachers tend to use in their classes are examples of learning material that encourages this latter type of engagement. 

In the absence of face-to-face interactions it may be relatively difficult to see the cognitive engagement of students (while their behavioural interactions with the learning material can be easily tracked, this definitely is an important area of research for educational technologists. In the meanwhile, it is important that online educators continue to make efforts in the direction of designing courses that include activities which when completed, will inherently encourage learners to cognitively engage with the learning material.  

Below are some principles that underlie a good online learning course that provides an engaged learning environment:

Active learning opportunities: With online learning material, it is easy for the students to get into a passive mode of learning, whereby they merely ‘receive’ inputs without actually ‘acting’ on the material. Shorter videos followed by tasks that require the student to demonstrate learning, curriculum-aligned games and interactive quizzes right after a lesson are some of the ways to keep the student actively involved. 

Collaborative learning space: Students thrive with their peers. It is important to provide them with adequate opportunities where they can participate in the teaching-learning process with their peers. Q&A forums, discussion boards provide good opportunities for students to engage and learn from each other.

Gamification: A gamified approach to learning is very effective, particularly with younger learners. Badges, merit-points, titles that get awarded at differing levels of concept mastery, are some effective and proven ways to build gamification in content. 

Opportunities for self-assessment: Students need to be encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. Providing them with opportunities where they can assess their level of learning and mastery, will not only keep them motivated but will also help them become self-directed learners.  

Sense of competence: When a student completes a task or an assignment successfully, it positively impacts future learning. It is important that students get these opportunities to experience ‘success’ by regularly engaging with tasks that are only slightly beyond their current level of capabilities. An adaptive assessment module is a valuable tool that helps achieve this and also helps to accurately identify gaps in a student’s learning. 

Feedback mechanism: Regular feedback helps students make progress.

Meaningful learning experience: As online educators, it is important to connect a learning activity or material with a student's previous knowledge or experience in order to make it meaningful. If a student does not consider a learning activity worthy of their time and effort, they may not engage. 

(The writer is CEO of an EdTech platform)