I start my Master’s student’s journey in February 2020, right before the corona breakout happened in the Netherlands. I didn’t know that this virus will change the learning situation in academia drastically. My expectations of going to the class, meeting friends, have a discussion with them or debate were break apart. 

I am thrown into an online learning environment, something new for me as a student, and I think for the teachers too. Some of the classes are boring because of online delivery, but few are successfully engaging students. One thing that is missing from most online classes is interaction. So in this article, I wrote down what can be improved to increase online engagement from my experience doing online learning for eight months now that can be useful for teachers out there. 

  1. Students love interactions and watching someone face (at least at the beginning of the class, so we know who our classmates are and of course, the teachers). So use an online tool that allows everyone to show their faces, for example, MsTeams and Zoom. (Seriously, WUR, you need to tell every lecture about MsTeams);
  2. As teachers, always turn on your camera. You can also ask students to turn on their cameras. It has happened in my class of teaching for sustainability. Turning on the camera will result in a higher engagement in the course. In my experience, when I turn off my camera, I tend to do something else (like checking my social media);
  3. Give your students a comprehensible schedule at the very beginning of the course. Send them the activity, the reading list that on with the deadline, when is the tutorial, and more. When I don’t have a clear schedule (it’s listed only as ‘Online Lecture’), I tend to be lost what to do;
  4. Give students a home assignment and ask them to do quizzes. My class in Research Methods always does that, which makes me keep up with the schedule. Monday is self-studying from the deck (an animated PowerPoint with notes) and a quiz before 9 pm. Tuesday is tutorial, discussing the deck and the quiz, and this cycle repeats;
  5. Give students an online forum to discuss the materials (and make sure to tell them always, check it daily, and respond to it). The forum functions like a Reddit thread. Some students are asking questions, others answering those. We use that a lot to ask questions regarding the self-studying and quizzes in the Research Methods class;
  6. Have a tutorial day at least twice a week where students can ask questions directly at you;
  7. We need to meet our classmates, so create breakout rooms online for students to discuss a particular topic and bring it back to the panel. This way, you will also force the students to engage in the course actively;
  8. Create a group work for your class. In my experience, group work is always the best way to know other students because you are working with them for one or two months on an assignment where the output mostly 10-15 pages of the report;
  9. Maximize your meeting to 2 hours and have a 10 minutes break. Three hours of online lectures will make students crazy. So ask them to read the materials beforehand and use the meeting to discuss the materials instead of lecturing them. It’s boring. From my experiences, students rarely ask in this online lecture. 

These are my experiences of being students that could help teachers to give maximum learning experiences in this uncertain time. What is your experience?

My name is Manaf, a full time learner. Passionate about sustainable development, environment, and youth education.

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