How to Successfully Foster Online Student Engagement

By now, most of you should have a good idea of what your program plans on doing this fall.

Some schools have switched to remote learning and others will be holding face-to-face classes. It seems like the majority will be doing remote or hybrid learning, which will probably require you to truly embrace remote teaching. 

Whatever your program plans on doing this fall, there are no statistical differences in student outcomes between face-to-face, hybrid, or online teaching, according to a study conducted by Dr. Curt Radford. I think it all comes down to using your tools and resources to foster online student engagement. 

Check out part one of this series: Giving Feedback for ASL—and Making It Count

Keeping Zoom to a Minimum

If you’re doing remote or hybrid learning, one thing I have learned to encourage online student engagement is not to rely too much on Zoom. I have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and sitting on a computer and staring at a screen for more than 15 minutes is challenging for me. And I’ve noticed it’s also a challenge for many of your students!

An article published by Farley and Kingstone points out that seeing your students fidget is an indicator of needing to change the pace of your lesson (break, new topic, activity). If you don’t change your pace and carry on the lecture, your students will start to zone out. For this reason, I like to keep my Zoom meetings to a minimum and then do the rest online asynchronously. 

Online student engagement

Assignments to Facilitate Online Student Engagement

Here’s an example of an assignment to promote online student engagement. I like to challenge my ASL 102 students to a cooking show. (Here is a youtube link of what my GoReact assignment looks like.) We go through the cooking show several times before they do it in front of the class.

I keep the assignment generic, simple, and vague. I simply say, “Choose something that you can make from scratch, includes more than 5 ingredients, and has to be cooked. And then I don’t give them any more instructions, other than the fact that their presentation has to be 10 minutes long. I require 4 submissions (one per week for a month) and then on the 5th, they present in front of the class.  

During the first few rounds, I give them a LOT of feedback and suggestions on how to improve. By the final, they are ready. Students will feel frustrated and be ready to move on to a new project, but like Bruce Lee famously quoted, “I fear not the man who has practiced 1,000 kicks one time. I fear the man who has practiced the same kick 1,000 times.” 

Fear not becoming the person the students are getting tired of because they will thank you later.  Create some fun assignments for your students and make it so that other students can enjoy and learn from each other. 

For more ASL content, read Teaching ASL Online: Making the Transition With GoReact

Sources
Radford. “Exploring the Efficacy of Online American Sign Language Instruction.”
Farley, Kingstone. “Everyday attention and lecture retention: the effects of time, fidgeting, and mind wandering.” Front. Psychol.

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