There are various ways of engaging students online both in synchronous and asynchronous teaching and facilitating active learning techniques.
An important thing is to set a welcoming tone in your course, by welcoming students when they enter a synchronous session, giving them a chance to introduce themselves to their classmates (e.g. using the chat room, the microphone or a discussion on Brightspace). You could design icebreaker activities at the beginning of the course. For example, in a synchronous session, display a world map on screen and ask students to indicate where they live using the annotation tools. You could repeat a similar activity in the other synchronous session. On Brightspace, you could create an Introduce Yourself discussion where you ask students to share a picture of their hometown or something that characterizes their daily routine during Covid-19. You could share something about you as well, to create a sense of community online.
In a synchronous lecture
In a synchronous lecture, you can use different strategies to engage the students:
- Welcome the participants. At the beginning of a synchronous session, take the time to welcome the students, ask them to sign in 5 minutes before the course starts, so that you can allocate time to set a positive tone in your course.
- Share screens. You can share your documents and different resources with students and keep them engaged with the content.
- Raise hand. Ask students to raise their hand if they want to ask a question and allow them to use their microphone.
- Microphone. Allocate time during a lecture for direct interactions with students and have them use their microphone. This is a way for you to pause and actively engage the participants. You can ask 2-3 students to use their microphone, which can also help create a sense of community in your course.
- Chat. The chat tool can be used to allow students to ask questions, and you can then allocate some time to answer them (e.g. every 10 minutes). You could also have a TA help monitor the chat (for large classes).
- Annotation tools. The annotate tools can help foster instructor-student interactions, you can comment on the student contributions, but you could also ask 1 or 2 participants to activate their microphone and provide more details on their contribution. This is a way to acknowledge their contribution and keep them engaged. Repeating this strategy will also encourage them and the rest of the class to participate even more.
Question poll. You can ask students for feedback at the end of a synchronous session (e.g. minute paper, muddiest point), ask them what went well, what was the most interesting part of the session, or what they found challenging, what needs to be answered. We suggest the question poll as student answers are anonymous. You could also use the chat to gather student feedback.
On Brightspace, you can engage students using the following strategies:
- Discussions (asynchronous). You can have Q&A discussions where students can ask questions about the course in general (e.g. assignments, access to technology, course navigation etc.), and discussions on specific topics or themes. You can have class discussions or group discussions.
- Announcements and emails. It is important to keep frequent communication with students, to keep them engaged with you and the course, and make sure they are not falling behind. Keep them on track! Announcements every week using categories (or tags) of topics will help students anticipate what to expect from you (e.g. Welcome to Week 1, Assignments, Team Project, etc.).
- Create summary discussion posts or short video clips. You can summarize the key themes and ideas that have emerged in the discussions or during a synchronous session (on the chat room). This allows you to keep students on track and acknowledge their contributions.