No matter what grade level you teach, you can maximize student participation by making creative use of your school/class website. Online learning platforms are a great way to boost participation since it gives more introverted students a more subtle platform through which to voice their opinions and gives your extroverted students an additional place to express themselves.
Classroom sites can foster discussion beyond the classroom. This gives students more opportunities to ask questions as they have them, provides a way for them to discuss topics more deeply, and to show you that they have a deep understanding of the material being covered.
In this post, we’ll provide some background on why participation is so meaningful in virtual learning. We’ll also go over some obstacles you may encounter when trying to encourage students to answer questions or share their thoughts. Lastly, we will provide you with four strategies to help maximize your online class work by promoting participation.
Why Participation Is Important in Online Learning
Participation in all education learning environments is essential, most significantly because it reinforces the concepts you’re teaching. While students absorb information from traditional lectures and readings, learners can also benefit from additional educational models like discussion-based lessons, which lend themselves perfectly to taking place on your class website.
Open discussion can be helpful in many ways. Hearing from your students enables you to gauge how well they’re retaining the content you’re teaching them. This can help you to pinpoint areas that may need additional reinforcement and gives you an opportunity to help those students who need assistance.
Participation also gives students a chance to hear other viewpoints from their classmates regarding the course content. This enables them to respectfully challenge each other’s views and provides opportunities for growth and learning that might not otherwise present themselves. When it comes to virtual learning, this sharing and connecting outside of the classroom may also help students feel more connected to each other. Instead of learning in a silo, so to speak, online discussions provide more social outlets for interaction that could lead to them forming their own study groups or developing new friendships. If students know you expect them to participate, they may be more likely to prepare for class.
4 Ways to Maximize Student Participation in Online Learning
We’ve gone over why participation is crucial for online learning and looked at some of the reasons why it can be hard to maintain. Now let’s explore some strategies for maximizing student participation in a virtual learning environment.
1. Foster Deep Online Discussions
You can use the Forums plugin to install a discussion board in any post or page on your class website:
After reviewing the lesson material, ask students to create a post to discuss something they’ve learned or answer questions you’ve asked. Once they have submitted their responses, pupils should comment on at least two of their peer submissions. This format can contribute to more in-depth conversations and thinking.
Taking these discussions online provides a notable advantage. Students have more time to carefully consider and craft thoughtful responses. The format may also help shy students express opinions in more detail than they would in person.
As the facilitator, you’ll want to give clear expectations for course discussions. This includes written guidelines for how often students should post, as well as due dates to keep the conversation on track. You also can provide a minimum word count for responses.
When providing questions or prompts, be sure they lend themselves to discussions and relate back to the course content. Provocative, open-ended prompts that require critical thinking will be more likely to engender interesting conversations than questions that check for factual recall.
You could also use this concept for your class blog. Present your lesson material and questions in the form of a blog post and then ask students to craft their own posts or comments responding to what they have learned. They can add comments on each other’s content as part of the exercise. Chime in with actionable, timely feedback to keep the conversation flowing. The Content Update Notification plugin can help you stay on top of this:
Lively, frequently updated discussions are more likely to entice students to participate.
2. Make Video Lectures More Engaging
Whether your lectures are live-streamed or recorded, there are ways to increase student engagement. If you use a lot of video content to teach, you’ll want to make it easy for students to access what they need.
If you pre-record your lessons, it can be beneficial to upload them to platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, or SchoolTube and then embed the videos on your school or class site. The WordPress Block Editor makes this easy.
Simply create a new post and add an embed block, then enter your video URL and your video lesson will be visible from this post:
To make it more engaging, you can encourage class discussions in the comments section of the post or follow it up with a short quiz. You can create one using Google forms and embed it much like you would a video lesson.
For live lectures, break students out into groups and give them a task to complete. You can use Google Docs for accountability during these sessions when you can’t observe everyone directly.
You might want to try combining the use of live and recorded lectures. Use the recorded classes to present new information. Then plan a live event students can use for discussion and debate with you serving as the moderator. You may also want to set aside some time for students to ask you questions about the material.
3. Create a Gallery of Student Work
For projects with a visual component, you can build an online gallery of your class’s work for other students to view. You can use Jetpack’s Carousel Mode to accomplish this:
If you teach an art class, this is a natural strategy to employ. However, galleries are adaptable to many subject areas and age groups.
If your students are younger, they may enjoy assembling a literary figure’s costume from items they have at home. Putting together a gallery of homemade book characters will likely be as much fun for you as for your students.
For older students, you might consider having them build galleries on their own. They can photograph their projects from various angles and add their image carousels to their blogs for their classmates to tour.
To increase participation, try asking students to respond to their classmates’ work. You can create a response form using Formidable Forms:
This plugin comes pre-installed on CampusPress sites, and enables you to build custom forms with ease.
While you can create a form strictly to collect feedback, you can also use this plugin to create polls. For example, in a lesson on abstract art where students show off their creations, classmates could weigh in and provide feedback.
4. Ensure Class Content is Accessible
Regardless of which virtual teaching strategies you use, you’ll want to make your course content accessible to all of your students. Accessibility considerations include:
- An accessibility-ready theme: Your site’s theme must meet some minimum requirements to be considered accessibility-ready. These include keyboard navigation support and appropriately labeled forms.
- Captions on videos: Captioning or transcripts are needed for deaf or hard-of-hearing visitors so that your audio content can be presented as text for them to read.
- Alt text for images: Alt text should be added to images on your site. This text describes images and is utilized by screen reader programs so that visitors with visual impairments know what images have been added to your content. To be effective, it should be comprehensive and specific but not overly long.
- Consideration for screen readers: In addition to alt text, there are other steps you can take to make your content friendly to screen readers. You can use headings to structure your pages for easy navigation and give your links descriptive anchor text.
Once you’ve set up your website to meet accessibility standards, you’ll want to make sure it stays that way. To help monitor it, you can use our Accessible Content plugin.
You can encourage your students to make use of this plugin on their own blogs, too. It’s an excellent, hands-on way for them to learn about web accessibility.
An actively engaged online class can be a rewarding learning experience for your students. With the methods we provided in this post, you may begin to see increased participation from your students.
In this article, we suggested four ways to maximize student participation:
- Foster in-depth online discussions in forums.
- Make lectures more engaging by incorporating quizzes.
- Create a gallery of student work and have pupils respond to it.
- Ensure class content is accessible so everyone can participate.
Do you have any tips for boosting participation from online learners? Share them in the comments section below!
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