Published 19th May 2020

Tips to Keep Online Students Engaged

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Teaching online is very different to teaching in a physical classroom. Similarly, learning online might be a new concept for your students and can take some getting used to. If you are teaching English online you might find your students get fatigued or distracted during your lessons, not because of you or the content of your lessons but because of the medium. Luckily, there are a few smart things you can do to maximize your students’ engagement to ensure your lessons are effective. Here are 7 smart tips to keep online students engaged.

1. Include them in the lesson

Make sure your students are actively involved in the lesson to prevent daydreaming. Ask questions regularly or use interactive activities to make sure they stay focused (and awake!). If you are teaching groups, use breakout rooms to facilitate discussions between students to alternate the groupings and ensure all the students are getting opportunities to speak.

2. Give them autonomy

Include students in your decisions regarding their lessons. After all, it’s their lessons. Ask them what topic they would like to discuss in future lessons, or what aspect of English they feel they would need to work on. This includes homework assignments. If your students can choose what they are going to do for homework, they are more likely to do it.  

Tips to Keep Online Students Engaged
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3.  Mix it up

Don’t just sit and chat with your students – or, even worse, lecture! Be sure to mix up your delivery methods to keep your lessons interesting. Sharing your screen can do wonders for your lessons –you can play videos and powerpoint presentations, play songs, and even play games. You could also communicate via chat to give your voice (and their ears) a rest and to practise their writing skills.

4. Reinvent yourself

Once your students know you well, you can mix it up a bit and come to class with a new identity. You can either wear a wig or new glasses, or you can adopt the persona of a well-known character. The trick is to be totally nonchalant about it, and make sure you go the whole hog. (Note: this will only be appropriate for certain students!)

5. Be current

We know that knowing your students is important, and this means getting to know their likes and interests and taking the time and effort to familiarize yourself with their culture. In other words, if you are teaching teens, make sure you know all about Tik Tok, or if you are teaching Japanese businessmen, keep up-to-date with what’s happening in Japanese media so you will always have something to talk about and can relate to your students better.

6. Nurture intrinsic motivation

Motivation is key to successful learning, no matter what the topic is or how the learning takes place. External motivation comes from outside and can be nurtured through stickers, badges or other rewards. What is even more powerful is intrinsic motivation. Remind your student why they are learning English and show them the links between the work they are doing and their real-life applications.

7. Take the learning outside the classroom

There is no reason your student should only learn while sitting in front of their computer. Give your student work that they can do on their own. This can be homework tasks which require making use of books, magazines or other people, or flipping the classroom. At the end of the day, we need to remember that learning online is physically and mentally exhausting. At the moment, your online students may very well be learning other subjects online too, so if they are a bit tired or grumpy during your lesson, cut them some slack. To help the situation, you need to make sure you bring your energy and enthusiasm into your online lessons (no matter how you are feeling) – and use these seven tips to make sure your students are as engaged as possible.

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