5 ways to keep your students engaged online

When teaching online it is important to consider ways to help students engage with the materials and activities. Here are a few tips.

Paolo Oprandi

1. Establish clear routes of communication 

Your main route of communication is likely to be the module’s Canvas home page and weekly pages. Additionally, you might use Canvas announcements (which by default will email students as well, unless they have changed their notification settings). Whatever your chosen route of communication be consistent and use it regularly. You might present learning materials via some text, a Panopto video or short audio podcasts. Whatever your chosen route(s), provide opportunities for students to tell you if they find accessing your communications or learning materials difficult.

2. Prioritise clarity in communicating what students should be doing

When we study online it can be harder to follow directions or know what you are meant to be doing next. Furthermore, we might be less easy to contact as we would be in a classroom setting. As a result, we should prioritise creating a consistent structure for teaching and learning activities, so students become familiar with a weekly study pattern. 

3. Combine ‘live’ teaching with asynchronous and/ offline learning activities

Combining and blending types of teaching activity can deepen your students’ learning. For example you can use Zoom as short interactive teaching sessions, and then give students a group or individual research task to do and ask them to post their findings on a Canvas Discussion. In the next face-to-face session, talk in detail about the students’ contributions. If no students have completed the tasks you’ve set, talk about what you would have expected from them and the importance of completing tasks for achieving their assessment

4. Put a face and a voice to learning activities

The online world can be lonely and disconcerting. It is a nice touch to put a photo of yourself on your Canvas page, next a task and in welcome slides of your presentations. Even if you are not sharing a Panopto lecture, include a welcome video or a short audio podcast to a week’s piece of work.

5. Use Canvas to make expectations you have of your students very clear

Use your Canvas site to set the expectations that you have of students and point them to the weekly tasks that you expect them to do.

As ever, Technology Enhanced Learning are ready and willing to help University of Sussex staff with online teaching, via the Teaching Online Learning Anywhere site or tel@sussex.ac.uk

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