Student engagement in virtual educational institutions

The concepts of digital and its devices have received more than a warm welcome by educational institutions thanks to new world norms. They are here to stay and help educators pivot to new age learning methods and discover ways of unearthing student potential. As institutions all over the world embrace the digital movement, this paradigm shift – from physical to virtual - must be accompanied by empathy for the teacher and the student. On one hand, there is a substantial number of digital newcomers and on the other, digital natives. With the pandemic reducing the learning experience and exposure to virtual screens, finding a comfortable middle ground with no compromise in quality, is proving to be a challenge for most educators. Beyond the technicalities and jargon of the new digital medium, teachers also face problems of retaining attention and increasing engagement amongst students. 

In a physical classroom, this challenge would have been relatively easy to tackle. But there is no clarity on whether prior school dynamics will make a comeback or if the status quo is here to stay. Imparting meaningful learning in an unfamiliar environment will mean that the educators will have to go the extra mile to achieve defined outcomes. Here are some ways that could help with the problem.

Reorganized course planning - One-way teaching approaches, exceedingly long course sessions, delayed responses to student doubts and disconnect with theory and practical lessons might create fatigue and distractions. Pedagogical innovations and refreshed methods of teaching will lay the base for solving the problem of engagement. An interesting mix of content delivery formats, organised learning materials, systems for paced learning and regular check-ins on progress or roadblocks makes the experience more transparent and conducive for heightened engagement. 

Shorter lectures – Attention has become a rare commodity with the advent of digital learning. Splitting a lesson into shorter capsules ensures better retention and interest. By increasing supplementary activities related to the lesson like student-identified courses etc., students are encouraged to pursue interests and be accountable for their learning and progress as well.

Nurture internal motivation - With digitisation, there has also been a shift of responsibility to the student. This is because teachers are limited by virtual screens to continually monitor student growth and retention – one of the serious limitations of the online medium apart from seamless inter-personal communication. By the time students graduate, the existing career landscape might also seem unfamiliar to them. Therefore, proved commitment to lessons, grades and non-curricular development is essential from the student and by encouraging, supporting and inspiring them to do so demonstrates a seriousness and interest in their growth journey. As students set out to carve their path, parents and teachers must be equally invested in the journey and have frequent lines of communication.

Group activities – It is probably the closest virtual substitute of human connection and a sense of belonging. The weight of the pandemic and the challenges that it has thrown can create anxiety for most students, especially since they are expected to attain an education in the confines of their home. Group discussions and activities are more crucial to the learning process than ever now. Virtual recesses, exploring related subject interests in a group and live streamed events are some paths to take to keep students focused and connected to the school. Sharing positive and negative experiences about new learning norms with peers might ease apprehensions and this can work in favor of the teacher. 

All these efforts must be supported by best-in-class online learning solutions. They must form the backbone upon which softer elements of teaching must be formed. While adoption of digital comes with its learning curve where teachers are being students themselves, nothing really changes for the curious and ambitious learner. The new means to the end is a wonderful challenge both for the teacher and the learner. Having a single digital platform that can facilitate any type of learning with limitless resources, access to mentors and placement opportunities is a must-have for the institution that wants to deliver beyond a degree.