How to Connect With Students & Engage Them Online

The novel coronavirus outbreak has shaken the entire world. For many of us, it is a traumatic experience that has completely modified our lives. It has affected the way we work, learn, and play. Millions of students and teachers around the world have been confined to their homes. To continue learning, many schools have opted for 100% virtual classes or some sort of a hybrid schedule.

Online Classes — The Challenges and Limitations

Learning should continue despite the pandemic. So, schools have embraced technology and shifted to e-learning platforms to connect teachers with students. The virtual learning environment is a new concept for most teachers and students, and hence, many are skeptical. The shift to online teaching is not easy. Teachers have had to adopt new skills and techniques to engage their students. The two limiting factors that make things difficult for teachers are motivation and self-discipline.

How To Engage Your Students

The greatest challenge teachers face is engaging students virtually. If the students don’t feel motivated and interested, it is probable they won’t learn. However, with a little bit of preparation and support, you can connect to your students and engage them.

Pick Your Tools

For any online class to be successful, you need the right tool. Check out the available options and try them before making a final choice. Watch videos to learn how to use the features that will help you to connect to your pupils.


The virtual learning environment is new for students too, and some may have trouble adjusting. To make learning enjoyable, introduce them to various online tools. Share information about the learning management system you are going to utilize and ask for their ideas and suggestions. Including students in some aspect of your planning will pique their interest.

Make virtual learning a collaboration so that your students feel ownership and responsibility for the process and material.

Develop Interesting Course Content

Classroom-based lectures that worked well in-person often become monotonous and not suitable for online teaching. To engage your students prepare your course accordingly. Divide the material into bite-sized pieces that are easy to understand. Ask the students questions to make sure they have grasped the concepts. Use videos and well-designed presentations to make learning more exciting.

Make Learning Action-Based

Knowing is not enough; your students must understand the topic and be confident to apply it in real life. Involve them in group discussions, ask them to gather data and analyze it. Have them go through case studies, and come up with explanations. Hands-on-learning is a good idea for in-person teaching and virtual education. When it comes to online teaching, hands-on activities inspire students to try new things and be open to challenges.

Make Learning Fun

Make fun a vital part of your teaching. Have your students quiz each other while online or divide your students into small groups and ask them to participate in a debate about the current topic. You could also ask them to prepare presentations on topics that interest them and share with the class.

Self-Assessment is Empowering

To decide if your online classes are successful at engaging the students, self-assessment is a perfect way to follow a lesson. Allow your students to assess their own performance to empower learning. To understand their weaknesses and strengths, prepare brief surveys for them to take. A few simple questions and situation-based problems will also help them to self-assess their progress. Knowing that they will be self-evaluating often motivates students to delve deeper into the topics.

Reward Students

Rewards make virtual classrooms fun and increase engagement. Rewards do not need to be extravagant. You can assign badges or stars for their efforts. Or you could reward a social student with teaching a short lesson or a quiet student with the opportunity to “show and tell” at the beginning of the next class.

Most teachers agree that their goal is to provide support and motivation to students and to encourage them to actively participate in virtual learning. Through proper utilization of technology and your own experience as an in-person teacher, you can increase students’ engagement in online classes.

Dennise Heckman has been teaching & coaching since 1996. She majored in illustration at the Savannah College of Art & Design, holds a Master of Education Degree