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How teachers can support student engagement in online learning

Engagement is critical for learning. The conditions that support engagement in a physical classroom – interest in a task, authentic and appropriately challenging activities, catering for individual needs, opportunities to learn using a variety of techniques, meaningful feedback, and opportunities for co-operative learning – all apply in online learning. However, teachers may have to rethink the ways in which they develop these conditions when teaching remotely.

Pakuranga College in Auckland has put together the following advice for teachers about engaging students online.

Engaged students online feel connected to others

  • They know they belong to an online community that has explicit, consistent and clearly communicated expectations and norms
  • The community is purposeful and kind, and interacts regularly

Engaged students online have flexibility

  • They understand that they have choices about which activities they complete and when and how they work
  • They know their teacher trusts them to work independently and make effective choices about their learning

Engaged students online understand what to do

  • They are aware of their role and responsibilities, and those of others
  • They know their learning schedule and what is coming up
  • They know the learning intentions and success criteria for tasks and lessons
  • They know when work is due to be submitted and how to submit it
  • They know who and how to ask if they’re unsure about something

Engaged students online can complete their work

  • They understand that work often is set in small chunks and how one piece of learning connects to prior and future learning
  • They know that teachers sequence the learning with clear aims in mind

Engaged students online are known to their teacher

  • They know their teacher has thought about and accommodated (as much as possible) their individual circumstances
  • They know that their work may be tracked by their teacher, and that they will receive timely feedback on work submitted

Engaged students are skillful at discussion

  • They know that group discussion is open to all and that everyone gets to listen and contribute
  • They know that discussion can be one-to-one, and they know how to reach out when they need this kind of support

Engaged students online understand that subjects are different

  • They recognise that different subjects will operate and function in different ways online, and that this means they will need to engage in learning in different ways

Developed by Martyn Davison in collaboration with Pakuranga College’s teaching and learning coaches.

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