How to keep students engaged

One of the biggest challenges when teaching is capturing students’ attention. This applies to both in-person and online classes. Regardless of the subject’s interest, sitting and focusing on one person for hours can become tedious without any engaging elements.

You may have noticed that when watching an online or in-person course, you suddenly think about other things or open another tab to check something. This happens because the course failed to engage you.

To make matters worse, getting distracted by our phones, computer notifications, or any reminders that divert our attention from one thing to another is becoming increasingly easy. So, watching courses that demand attention and focus on absorbing the content requires more effort than it does to scroll through social media.

That’s why a challenge in any course is to make it interesting enough for students to engage with the content actively. We’ll explain student engagement and provide you with 8 amazing tips to implement in your courses and create more engaging learning experiences.

What is student engagement?

Make sure to distinguish student engagement from paying attention to the subject. Have you ever participated in a course where students didn’t actively participate? They may have been paying attention but didn’t answer questions or initiate discussions. This is an example of a course that needs student engagement, where the students are disengaged.

Student engagement refers not only to their attention to the content but also to their willingness to learn. Curiosity, interest, and motivation are parameters for measuring student engagement.

This definition makes it easier to understand why all successful courses strive to engage their students. They aim to educate individuals who genuinely want to learn and actively seek ways to apply the knowledge they acquire.

The concept of valuing student engagement is fascinating because it prioritizes understanding the subject matter and the approach taken to teach it. Having a student who seeks to integrate the knowledge into their daily life and thinks critically about what they’ve learned is the best kind of student possible!

How to improve student engagement

You can implement several techniques and tips to enhance student engagement. We’ll present 8 techniques here for you to consider when creating a course. Planning ahead can greatly assist in creating an engaging course. Try incorporating these techniques naturally into your content.

Bring meaning to the content

The best way to create immediate engagement is by demonstrating the importance of the content being taught. Show the relevance of the proposed activities and the real-life application of the presented concepts.

Try creating a logical progression that allows students to see where they are and where they’re heading with their learning. Presenting this learning path at the beginning of each module reminds students why they are undertaking the course and what they will achieve upon completion.

Gamify the content

A great way to engage students is by turning the learning process into a “game.” Gamifying the content, along with presenting the learning path, provides students with extra motivation to complete the course.

Having a learning management system (LMS) that supports gamification can be helpful. Ensure that your platform incorporates gamification elements.

Gamification encourages completion and motivates interested students to delve deeper into the subject matter and seek additional materials. It provides an extra incentive for students who are already interested in exploring the content further.

Foster discussions about the content

Engage students in critical thinking by creating discussions and asking questions. If possible, facilitate group debates or discussions in forums, allowing students to interact with one another and solidify their acquired knowledge.

As an instructor or instructional designer, posing open-ended questions for discussion, where students can have differing opinions, is highly productive. Students will likely seek to deepen their understanding to present better arguments, thus enhancing their learning. Additionally, they can learn from their peers’ opinions and engage in healthy debates.

Implement different forms of assessment

Considering alternative forms of assessment is an excellent way to increase student engagement. Conducting pair assessments or evaluations based on the discussion of an article, for example, can gauge how much of the content has been absorbed and also identify those students who made an effort to create something unique during the assessment.

Assessments can take various forms. Creating an environment where students can showcase what they have learned and how they have learned it values different ways of understanding. Many engaged students may struggle with traditional assessments, so presenting something more relaxed or gamified can allow these students to shine.

Incorporate current themes

Your course should be heavily based on current themes and always stay updated. Enrolling in a course with outdated content that no longer holds relevance in the present moment can be discouraging.

Furthermore, the idea of current themes is linked to the discussions that will take place in the class. Highlight how the content is strongly connected to current events and today’s problems.

Value creativity

When assigning activities, provide instructions on what should be included and leave the rest up to each student’s creativity. You will certainly notice that the received assignments will differ significantly from what you imagined. This doesn’t mean they are wrong, but it emphasizes and values each student’s unique line of thinking and understanding of the learned content.

Imagine you’re teaching an Excel course and one of the activities is to create a expense spreadsheet. During the module, you provided all the instructions and some tips. When you ask for the activity, each student presents a different spreadsheet with different chart choices as well.

While some approaches may not be the best way to present data, it opens up another discussion in the class and provides an opportunity to learn from these diverse tables.

Bring in subject matter experts

If possible, include subject matter experts in your course. Featuring prominent individuals adds value to the course and gives learners the perspective of someone who lives and understands the problem they are learning about. You can incorporate these experts through citations, additional videos, or by referencing the content they have written in their books, for example.

These authorities can be local community members who deal with a specific problem or individuals in positions of importance. It all depends on the course’s objective.

Bringing in voices of active authorities on the presented subject and encouraging student interaction is one of the best ways to learn and capture attention.

Encourage students to share their course projects

Here, the idea is to have students encourage others by sharing what they have learned from your course. When people showcase where they are in their learning journey and how they have delved deeper into the subject with your course and additional materials, it becomes a powerful way to engage other students.

For example, if you have an online course where students don’t interact with each other, encouraging them to share projects on social media using the course’s hashtag is a way to unite all the students who have undertaken the same project.

Create courses that you would take yourself.

Creating engaging courses can be challenging, but it is incredibly rewarding to have students who are genuinely committed to getting the most out of your course. Forming engaged students is highly satisfying as they will also become ambassadors for your course. They will recommend your course when asked where they learned so much about a particular topic.

With these tips for creating engaging courses, you now have several possibilities to develop a distinctive course!

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