The Do’s and Don’ts of Connecting with Students Virtually

As the country continues to grapple with the pandemic, education has had to shift to online learning  and being connecting with students virtually. Since school closures at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, school-sponsored distance learning rose from 65% in March to 83% in April, and this figure is set to continue on an upward trend as the current academic year unfolds.

Millions of students needed to adjust instantly to the new realities of distance learning. In one survey, teachers reported that only 60% of their students were regularly engaging in distance learning. They further claim that engagement continued declining through the rest of the school year. There are several factors that contribute to this relatively low figure: availability of online devices, access to the internet, and sudden changes in home and family arrangements.

When asked about what school districts could help them with, teachers’ top response was “strategies to keep students engaged and motivated to learn remotely.” While this is a difficult time for everyone, it’s particularly challenging for students to self-regulate and motivate themselves to learn online. Students that would otherwise be socializing with their friends in school are holed up in their homes, and many feel suffocated and inaccessible.

This is something that schools across the country are trying to remedy. Yet, teachers are struggling to find ways to connect with students while they continue to deliver a quality education online. To help we will go over the new do’s and don’ts:

Do make use of technology

Today’s students are no strangers to online educational platforms, but most traditional student platforms that were designed to supplement the physical classroom don’t cut it anymore. There’s still a need for a platform to manage the basic processes like student communications, maintaining organization, and connecting student groups; but there are also new demands.

We talked about the importance of having a mobile-first platform in our previous article, and how it’s important to have a modern student engagement platform that is designed with the students’ needs in mind. Raftr’s student engagement, mobile-first platform provides solutions to today’s challenges: it covers communications, planning and organization, and resource management. This simplifies student organization activities by providing all their needs in a single seamless platform, instead of having students utilize multiple channels.

When deciding on which platform to use, consider a mobile-first approach. Most Gen Z and millennial students spend more time on their mobile devices than they do on their desktop or laptop, so reaching them through a medium that they’re already familiar with helps them stay engaged.

Don’t put them under too much stress

Students are learning and exploring what works for them, and it could take time. They’re adjusting to this new situation both mentally and practically, as some students may need to share computers between their siblings or parents.

Be generous, but do this in a measured way. Create enough of a challenge to keep students interested and occupied but not too stressed. According to Nat Kendall-Taylor, chief executive officer at the FrameWorks Institute, there are different classes of stress:

  • Positive stress: nudges you out of your comfort zone, leading to growth and development.
  • Tolerable stress: arises from difficult situations, but with a presence of a supportive relationship.
  • Toxic stress: severe and chronic, and this happens when one finds themselves without support.

Positive and tolerable stress leads to growth and development; toxic stress is damaging, and, in this context, avoidable. You’re in a situation where you can both add to and ease the pressure of school. Check with your students and ask them how you can help them further, or even agree on realistic timelines together.

Do relate lessons to real-world experiences

It can be hard to expose students to real-world experiences with the pandemic still going on. Still, teaching them through case studies and other real-life examples help them reflect and build better problem-solving skills. There are many age and interest-specific experiences that you can integrate into your lessons.

Maryville University, for instance, has been offering courses online since 2012, using real-world experiences in its courses—particularly ones that involve more technical classes. As such, students working toward an online data analytics degree learn from case studies pulled from the latest business news. Classes also include training with the digital business analytics tools used by actual market researchers and financial quantitative analysts. This ensures they get the same level of real-world education and experience as they would if on-campus.

Incorporating these real-world experiences—through virtual trips, simulations, and problem-solving—sparks interest in students, allowing them to appreciate lessons better; and it’s more engaging for them when the experience is something that they can relate to.

Don’t forget that they’re living through a pandemic, just like you

Your students are living through an unprecedented time, and you are too. The pandemic has made several people feel anxious and even angry, as they’re missing out on milestones and other key moments in life. It’s okay to feel these things. Allow space for both your students and yourself to have all types of moments.

Now is the time to encourage optimism and self-expression. In addition to educational activities, encourage them to engage in reflective and creative endeavors, such as journaling, creating artwork, or simply opening a conversation with their peers. Connecting with students entails more than just delivering lessons. Right now, it’s more important than ever to be engaged in their lives, and be the supportive figure that they need to help them grow. We hope the above tips provide useful.

Post written by Berttylou Jonathan for

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