Category Education

Keep Students Engaged in Online Learning and Manage Technical Glitches

Whether your staff taught the occasional virtual class or had no experience, everyone just got a crash course in delivering a full-time online learning schedule thanks to COVID-19. Keeping college students engaged in online learning is an essential part of delivering quality education.

Below I’ve outlined ways to keep students engaged during online classes. Pass on these ideas to your educators to encourage their students to fully participate in virtual sessions. I also included tips on how to overcome some technical difficulties during live online sessions.

Outline your virtual class in short sections

Break up your online class into different sections or chapters. Presenting the class in short “chunks” can help you deliver an energetic class and retain students’ attention. Create a virtual class outline that can be turned into a short agenda to share with your students.

In your outline, include problem-based learning tasks. Communicate to your students that the solution to the problem lies in the course material that you will present online. This can motivate students to give their full attention throughout the online class to learn the solution.

Use different media formats

Mix different media formats in your virtual class to change the pace and keep students engaged. Share a video of you talking and add a recorded video. In between, share slides or other documents on the screen. Follow the tips in our Online Learning Best Practices for Educators blog when recording or sharing live video.

Design your online class for audio-only and mobile experiences

In a perfect world, your digital class will be delivered perfectly. But glitches happen. Taking proactive steps can help you overcome technical difficulties. While video is more engaging than audio alone, don’t rely on it. At times you may not be able to send video, or class participants may not see the video due to bandwidth or device issues. Note that having a student leave the virtual class and then log back on may correct audio or visual issues for them.

In case video is not available during your class, design your material so that students can absorb the information by hearing the audio portion only. Keep talking when visuals are on the screen. If all is well with sending the video, be sure to record it so students who had any issues can watch a replay later.

Also, consider that students may be using a mobile phone or tablet to attend class. Small screens can make information hard to read. Use large type and break up information on a few slides, instead of cramming everything on to one slide or page. View your materials on a mobile phone before adding them to your virtual class presentation. You’ll avoid a situation where students cannot easily see your video content.

Record a back-up session before live classes

Hopefully, you won’t experience your classroom technology going down completely. If you do, be prepared with a recorded session of your class. That way, you can have students watch the recorded session and keep the class schedule you designed. You can use Google Drive or Microsoft Stream to share links to recorded classes if needed.

Keep Online Learning Accessible

Don’t forget to keep accessibility for visual and hearing impaired students in mind when preparing course documents and tools. Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft PowerPoint include tools to verify accessibility. Add captions to your videos if possible. YouTube and many LMSs include an auto-caption feature. Double-check that your captions are correct before sharing a video.

Ensure students know how to use the system

Once you prepare your online class, ensure participants know how to log on to the Learning Management System (LMS) or video conferencing platform you will use. Send an instructional email a few days before class. Most systems will include a link to help participants test their devices before the session. This will allow time for students to address any technical issues.  

To further encourage your students’ success, share our online learning best learning for students with your class. You can also share a beginner tutorial video like this one from Zoom:

Share a clear virtual class agenda

Once you have an outline, start the class by briefly reviewing your agenda. You can share a PowerPoint slide or Word document and talk through it.

Sending the agenda and supporting class materials prior to the online session will help overcome any technical issues with video too. Students can refer to their materials if they can’t see the video during class. Also, include in your email how students can contact you with comments and questions during live and recorded online learning sessions.

Check in regularly during live digital classes

For small classes, pause occasionally and ask if anyone has questions. When presenting to large classes, turning on everyone’s mics may not be feasible. Ask students to utilize the chat or Q&A features in the LMS or video meeting platform. It’s helpful to have an assistant or student volunteer moderate this for you.

Maintain engagement between virtual classes

Since you can’t connect with students in person, include ways to keep them engaged between the virtual classes in your lesson plan. Consider these steps to keep students connected with you and each other during the online course.

Hold regularly- scheduled virtual office hours

Allow students to drop-in to your virtual office during designated hours. Send out a recurring meeting link for the times when you’re available to chat with students. For large classes, have students ask for appointments by email, or use a tool like Calendly.

Use social media to build a student community

Social distancing prohibits students from meeting in person. To help your class participants connect with each other and boost engagement, create a private Facebook Group, or another discussion forum.  Classmates can interact with each other online after class at their convenience. Ask a teaching assistant to moderate the group and provide feedback to you about common questions or learning roadblocks.

Ideas to get students engaged in digital forums:

  • Ask specific questions on discussion boards to facilitate student responses
  • Post recorded videos with FAQs or follow-up info based on student questions
  • Present problems that can be solved by reading course materials, or students’ virtual class notes

Gamify your online class

Add a gaming element to your virtual class that can encourage ongoing student engagement. Consider a scavenger hunt based on pictures or answers to questions that you add to your video or slides for students to find. Have online class participants include answers in their assignments to earn points for extra credit. Delete points for missed or late assignments too.

For classes delivered through an LMS, check if the system can award badges as students complete each class or assignment. You can create some friendly competition to get the most badges in a certain period. Likewise, set up automated LMS email notifications when classes and assignments are not completed on time.

Post assignments that boost engagement after class

Consider how you can maintain engagement when creating virtual class assignments. Ideas to consider include:

  • Have students complete video or phone interviews with professionals or each other.
  • Share recorded “mini-class” audio or video files with assignment details. Assign groups and have students collaborate online and record their answers.
  • Ask students to search for video resources to share on the course topic from YouTube or other universities.

AVI-SPL is here to help

I hope your educators find these ideas to keep students engaged in online classes useful. Have other ideas to share? Post them in the comments. If you need assistance with your online learning platforms, contact us or call your local AVI-SPL office.

For more online learning information, check out AVI-SPL’s Together We Can online learning page for weekly updates.

Online Learning Best Practices for Students

While teachers are scrambling to get remote classes up and running in the wake of coronavirus, your students are facing work-at-home challenges too. Once your staff is prepared to teach classes online, you can help your students be ready for online learning as well.

Pass on these best practices to teachers to share with their students. Use our social buttons at the end of the article to easily share these distance learning best practices for students via social or email.

Find a quiet place for online classes

Try to find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Ensure you have good lighting and wear headphones to help you focus on the online session.

Share your virtual class schedule

Speaking of quiet areas, work out a schedule with your family or roommates for class time. Young children may be home from school, and many parents are working remotely from the house too. Limit distractions as much as possible by planning your class time with everyone at home.

You may be sharing internet bandwidth as well. Let your housemates know when you need to attend class online. Ask others to limit streaming apps and large downloads while you’re attending class. It’s a tough ask while we’re all working and studying from home — we know!

Test your system

When you’re invited to an online session, the email usually includes a link to test your computer, tablet, or phone to ensure the video conferencing solution will work. Don’t forget to check your device the day before class, so you’ll have time to address any technical issues. It’s helpful to ensure you can log on to sessions using a mobile data connection, in case your Internet service is slow or interrupted.

Also, most video conferencing systems have chat and Q&A options. Ask your class leader ahead of time which option to use to submit questions and comments. Look for more information from your school or watch instructional videos like this one from Zoom.

Also, if you use any online accessibility tools for visual or hearing impairments, test that those work with your online class platform too. Ask your teacher to set up a test session if needed.

Complete assignments and download materials before class

Get familiar with the material and complete any assigned reading so you can follow along during the lesson and ask questions. Let your teacher know if you had any issues accessing materials.

Mute your cell phone during class

Turn off your ringer and vibrate function to avoid the temptation to pick up your mobile phone. Remember to pause all text and app notifications to limit distractions. Better yet, turn your phone off unless you’re using it to attend class.

Mute the mic on your device

Mute your device microphone when not speaking during a video conferencing class. Muting the mic will limit the noise others will hear. Make sure you know how to mute your microphone before class begins.

Remember it’s a real class

Keep in mind this is a real class, and you will be graded. Pay attention to the lectures, and do your assignments. Finally, deadlines are still deadlines. Complete your work on time and respect your fellow students’ and educators’ time during online classes.

Check out these additional Top Tips For Student Success in Online Courses shared by Nova Southeastern University.

The AVI-SPL team is ready to help you

We hope your students put these online learning best practices to effective use. The AVI-SPL team is here to help if you need assistance setting up your distance learning technology. Contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office.

Online Learning Best Practices for Educators

At AVI-SPL, we understand that the coronavirus outbreak is stressing your online learning systems, administrators, educators, and students. The educational system changed in a heartbeat. We’re here to help you fulfill your goal of delivering quality education to all students in these uncertain times.

Some educators may teach occasional online classes, while others are completely unfamiliar with teaching remotely. You can help make the transition to full-time remote teaching and learning easier by sharing our online learning best practices with your teachers. You’ll find our social share buttons at the end of the article.

Get to know your distance learning tech

It’s helpful to do a trial session before you deliver a live online class. Your organization may use a Learning Management System (LMS) or video conferencing platform to provide virtual classes. To get to know your system, rehearse a short session and record it. That way, you’ll be familiar with the tools you’ll need to deliver your class.

Test how to switch from the camera to sharing tools like screen sharing and interactive whiteboards. Here are some resources to get started with common platforms:

Get comfortable teaching higher ed classes online

If you’re new to teaching online classes, take time to get comfortable in front of the camera. Rehearse a short session and record it. Watching the recording can help you gauge the best distance to stand from the camera. Aim to get a “medium close-up” shot that shows you from the waist up.

You’ll also be able to tell if you have adequate lighting. You may need to move around the room, close shades, or bring an extra lamp into the space. Avoid standing in front of windows with bright light behind you, or you’ll show up in silhouette. If you’re at home, be mindful of what’s showing in the video behind you. Move any personal items such as family photos that you prefer not to share.

Consider that the camera represents your remote students. Make occasional eye contact with your students by looking at the camera while you’re speaking.

Keep remote college students engaged with video

Keep remote students engaged by breaking up distance learning sessions by sharing video. If your organization does not have enough video to use, check into free resources.  In response to coronavirus, TEDEd has launched TEDx@home, a daily newsletter that offers lessons for all ages, including university-level lessons with video. TedEd also provides online videos grouped into themes, like this video package on visualizing data.

Don’t forget YouTube can be a video resource too. A few channels with educational content to check out include National Geographic and NASA.

Ensure online lessons are accessible

Students with impaired vision or hearing may have tools that make working online easier for them. You can also help by designing online class materials that are accessible to everyone.

  • Verify that attendees can hear the sound in any videos that you play online. If closed captions are available, turn them on.
  • If you’re using PowerPoint slides, use the accessibility checker under the Review menu on the ribbon.
  • Provide handouts in formats that are compatible with screen readers. Microsoft Word files with text should not be a problem. Machines can read PDFs if they are created with accessibility in mind. Adobe offers a tool to create PDFs and verify accessibility.

Connect with students before, during, and after class

To help your students stay connected and prepared for class, send out session topics the week prior. Include information on how to log on to class sessions. Ensure students know where and how to get class materials like downloads and videos. Provide passwords to access materials if needed.

For live classes, remind students how to submit questions during the conference.  Take time to answer your students to help keep them engaged with your online class. During the class, have an assistant or student volunteer keep an eye on chat and Q&A windows if possible. That way, you can focus on delivering the lecture without missing any questions.

After class, follow up with an email asking for feedback on the session. Ask if everyone was able to connect to the video conference and follow along. Since students can’t see you in person, hold virtual office hours too. Try a tool like Calendly to allow students to make their own appointments during available time slots.

We hope your teachers find these distance learning best practices useful in delivering quality online education. Also, if you need to build or upgrade your online learning technology, your organization may qualify to shop for solutions using our national procurement contacts. Watch the video for more info.

AVI-SPL is here to help

If you have questions, we’re here to help. For assistance with upgrading up your distance learning technology, contact us now or call your local AVI-SPL office.

Webinar: How to Manage Your Classroom or Conference Room Technology

Whether you’re in a corporate conference room or a higher education classroom, it can be a challenge to manage different devices in one room as efficiently as possible while also maximizing the potential of the source and display content.

We’ll try to help you solve these challenges during this AVI-SPL/Harman webinar, “How to Manage Your Classroom or Conference Room Technology.” Join us on Wed., April 22 at 2 p.m. ET as our host and panelists discuss:

  • All-in-one devices that combine switching and control
  • Simplicity in signal distribution within a room
  • Solution standardization for a consistent experience across spaces
  • Ensuring a high-quality audio and video experience

Stephen Bogart of Harman and Laurie Berg of AVI-SPL will walk you through technologies that aid in the classroom, including Enova DVX 4K60 and AVI-SPL Symphony, while also sharing how organizations have leveraged the benefits of these technologies to deliver the best user experience for your teachers and students.

Register for “How to Manage Your Classroom or Conference Room Technology” >

Five Ways Displays Help Students Join the Workforce

Read AVI-SPL’s eBook “From Sim Labs to Huddle Spaces” to find out how to attract more students to your school with interactive displays and stand out in a competitive market. Providing modern technology like simulation labs and huddle spaces can also encourage alumni to support your organization after graduation.

To give but one example, technologies like augmented and virtual reality are expanding the opportunity for immersive experiences. Interactive displays are helping deliver those experiences in spaces that benefit learners who are making discoveries on their own, and those who are collaborating and solving challenges as a group.

This eBook, made with insight from NEC, shares five ways your school can use technology to help students enter the workforce. It also explains how interactive displays support workforce readiness by helping students build communities, drive research and innovation, support collaborative learning, and more.

Fill out the form to download “From Sim Labs to Huddle Spaces: 5 Ways Interactive Displays Help Students Join the Workforce” >