With all the change teachers and students have experienced as a result of the pandemic, one thing still remains true: keeping students engaged is an important ingredient in their learning success.  As a teacher, when lessons were taught in a physical classroom, it was easier to monitor students and make changes to lessons in order to keep them engaged. Precious face to face time, almost on a daily basis, provided you with real-time feedback for knowing when students were either leaning into or out of your lessons.

We all yearn for the physical classroom experience to return, but today, our classrooms are virtual — constructed with learning management systems (LMSs), online video communications technologies, and other remote learning tools.  While the virtual classroom experience may not be ideal, it does offer a unique opportunity to learn new approaches to designing classes, teaching lessons, assigning homework, and helping students with their assignments. It is still as important as ever to keep students engaged during live class sessions and beyond. But how do you achieve this in a virtual learning environment where you have very limited facetime, and students who may be reluctant to speak up on live video calls?

Here we share three easy strategies — that you can start using today — for keeping your students engaged in the virtual classroom.

1. Maintain personal connections

According to research conducted by Stanford Professor Nicholas A. Bloom one of the biggest obstacles your class may deal with is the feeling of being disconnected. Online discussion boards, collaborative activities inside your LMS, and even email can’t go far enough to replace crucial in-person social connections. Live classes and Zoom office hours help, but what about when they are working on their own? 

One easy way to keep students engaged begins before the live class sessions. You can record and share short video messages that strengthen your personal connection with students, motivating them to complete individual learning assignments outside of class.  Your video message can be a personal message such as “your last homework was excellent and here’s why,” or you might even share an interesting fact or funny story with the entire class. 

The benefit of recording a video message is two-fold. First, students can view (and review) it where and when they need it, and second, simply seeing your face and hearing your voice can help to maintain and strengthen the student-teacher relationship.

2. Provide encouragement when needed  

Positive feedback and encouragement are essential for keeping students engaged, but this becomes more challenging with remote students.  Sending well-intended short messages via discussion boards or email opens the door to misinterpretation without additional context. Instead, try sending recorded video messages.  Video messages are proven to be more effective at delivering clear communications and keeping students engaged. 

You can quickly create a video message and easily provide individuals or even a group of students the information and encouragement they need to lean in and keep moving forward.  With a video message, students hear the encouragement in your voice, your tone, and your facial gestures plus, you can share additional information by recording your whiteboard or screen.  

3.  Explain complex concepts in detail 

All too often, in the virtual classroom students disengage and withdraw when they are struggling to digest new, complex concepts. So if students seem unusually quiet following a tricky lesson, it’s likely an indication they need additional help understanding the new concepts you presented.  

Even if your students have already viewed recordings of your live Zoom sessions, you can further reinforce key concepts by quickly recording and sharing a follow-up micro-lesson to help students connect all the dots and deepen their learning. Don’t underestimate the incredible amount of information that you can convey in just a short 1-minute video message. According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research “A minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.”  Think for a moment the positive impact that a 1-minute video could achieve. With recorded video messages, you can quickly tailor your explanation to the concepts students are most likely struggling with, and keep them engaged in mastering these concepts outside of class.   

Give Video Messages A Try

Easy-to-record video messages offer you a flexible, efficient, and effective medium for keeping students engaged outside of live class sessions. And you don’t have to wait to begin putting these strategies into action.

Try recording a video message right now with Panopto Express — our zero-install FREE screen and video recorder that works on your Mac, PC, or Chromebook, and supports instant sharing to Google Classroom, YouTube, or your LMS.