Learning to engage students in the classroom is a crucial teaching strategy because student engagement is a prerequisite for learning and a strong predictor of student success. It allows your students to thrive in the class because they are actively participating which leads to higher mastery of the course material. In 2021 and beyond, teachers have the added challenge of keeping their students engaged in varying class structures such as hybrid learning models, although, research has shown that teaching quality is more important than whether students enroll in online, in-person, or hybrid learning courses.
Here are five things you can do to increase student
engagement in blended learning environments:
In this blog, we delve into each of these topics to show you how you can increase your student engagement in blended classes with on-ground and online components. (Note: we will be using "blended learning" and "hybrid learning" interchangeably throughout this blog.)
1. Adequately prepare your students
To engage your students from the very beginning, you need to ensure they are briefed on how the hybrid learning environment will function. Start off by taking the time to demonstrate how any online learning platform or application, such as Blackboard or Yellowdig, will be utilized in the class. Don’t assume that the students will know how to use a website or program for their education—even if it is common.
To further support the students, screen record or screenshot crucial parts of your online course and upload it to a place that is clearly visible. For example, you may want to show how exactly to submit an assignment or where to find certain course materials. Even if you take time to show students during class, having materials to reference outside of class will help those who have difficulties or need more time to understand.
If your students are unable to use the most important parts of your hybrid learning course, student engagement may fall. In fact, not preparing your students for blended learning may result in students ignoring parts of their education entirely. Avoid this by preparing your students at the beginning of the semester. (Be sure to utilize our Knowledge Base if using Yellowdig.)
2. Structure your class for both asynchronous and synchronous learning
You want your students to be actively engaged regardless if they physically attend class, come for a livestream, or watch the recorded lecture later. Copying the structure of a purely face-to-face or online class will usually not be sufficient for ensuring success in a blended learning environment. Relying solely on traditional methods for those modalities is unlikely to optimize student engagement. The way you ultimately structure your hybrid class is up to you, but keep your varied students in mind while you design your course.
Ask yourself the following questions to guide you in structuring your blended learning environment:
Does each student have equal opportunity to succeed in this class despite how and when they participate?
Have I clearly outlined all of the important administrative aspects of the class so the students can focus on the course material?
How will I measure student engagement across all modalities?
Is the online learning platform easy to access and navigate?
These questions can guide you while structuring your hybrid course.
3. Have a reliable instructor presence
Your students should feel supported by you whether they are a face-to-face, a synchronous, or an asynchronous student, which will ensure they stay engaged throughout the semester. Regularly communicate with your students and provide a forum through which they can get responses to their questions or concerns as quickly as is feasible.
Offer regular office hours, both virtual and in-person, so they can discuss their learning needs. Students that are struggling are often too embarrassed or overwhelmed to ask for help, so try to reach out to them instead of waiting for them to contact you.
Using Yellowdig’s analytics, you can visually see which students aren’t connecting with the rest of the class and how much they are participating in the course. Participation is a great indicator of how well a student will do in a class, so these metrics can identify students that may be falling behind and help you get them on track—before it’s too late.
Yellowdig's Network Graph allows you to have a visual of connections between students in your class.
4. Assign meaningful activities
To drive student engagement in a hybrid learning environment, create assignments that are both interesting and inline with the students’ learning outcomes. Students learn best and are much more likely to engage with their education if they find interest in it. As the instructor, you should be creating an environment where students have agency and autonomy in driving their own learning.
For example, a typical discussion board post appears uninspired and lazily written—and the comments aren’t much better. Why keep something in your course that students clearly don’t engage with in a meaningful way? Planning fun, meaningful activities for your blended learning course will easily increase student engagement. Check out this helpful blog to get inspiration for activities for your hybrid learning course.
Using a platform like Yellowdig allows students to engage with their peers and course material in an social online environment while the instructor can easily track participation and award students for exceptional work. This win-win situation gives students an authentic reason to engage in their class other than just earning a letter grade.
5. Create a reliable method for student to student interaction/Encourage community building
Even though many hybrid learning models offer accessibility for students, it has its drawbacks. For example, a student who never steps foot inside the classroom may feel disconnected from their fellow peers. According to a survey done by the NSSE, students felt that they missed out on social interaction and experienced lapses in communication due to the online environment.
Such challenges of the hybrid model can be overcome, and one way to accomplish that is by designating a way for students to build an ever-present online community. This can be in the form of online discussion boards or by using a proven, community-driven platform like Yellowdig. Either way, building a community is a surefire way to increase student engagement.
Looking to the future
Adapting to an ever-changing academic landscape is a challenge teachers must face in order to ensure your students stay engaged this school year and beyond. Ultimately, it comes down to you, the instructor, to ensure a positive learning experience for your students.
Interested in increasing student engagement regardless if you teach online, hybrid, or in-person classes? Yellowdig is the go-to community building platform for over 100 institutions because of its modern social media-inspired interface, its data-proven success for students, and its ability to integrate with any LMS. Schedule a live demo of Yellowdig here.