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9 Tips for Keeping Online Students Focused and Engaged


Focus and attention in schools were already major issues before, but with online classes becoming the norm to a wide majority of UK students, this is only being exacerbated. For some students, giving them the relative freedom these classes offer is the worst thing that could happen.

In the absence of structure and instant feedback, some students just end up losing their way. Others might have trouble dealing with the static nature of online classes. It doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, however, and some things can be done to make classes more engaging to students. There are also things that can be done to keep them focused and on track. Let’s take a look at 9 ways that you can do just that.

Use the Proper Tools

Everything starts with having the proper tools at your disposal. You want a versatile tool that allows you to have control and reach your audience wherever they are and through the best format. You also want a tool that will allow you to monitor not only the progress of the students but their actual activities online.

You have tools like that allow you to monitor students online and check on what they’re doing. You can then manually block activity if you notice that one of the students is straying away.

Not all tools will allow you to have that much control. The tool is also very interactive and facilitates cooperation, which is essential for engagement as well. If you want to learn more about this tool, you can visit

Having structure is one of the most important aspects of engagement. Only certain students can be expected to succeed and stay focused when literally left to their own devices. And in some cases, space could be what they need. However, some students will require that you constantly follow up on them. Online learning does have this benefit of allowing for individualised communications and even assignments, so use this to your advantage.

Interact with Them

You must maintain the human aspect as much as you can if you want a chance at keeping them engaged. This is also where using the right tools will be essential, but they also have to be used the right way.

Doing something as simple as acknowledging someone’s presence in a live chat and engaging students there can be a great start. The trick is really to use as many tools and formats as you can and make interactions as easy and natural as possible. Email and chat are good tools but don’t be afraid to play with things like embedded audio and video. Explanatory screencast videos in particular seem to be very well received by students and are easy to make.

Push for Active Learning

One of the biggest misconceptions about online learning is that students have to stay stuck in front of monitors for hours on end. In reality, it’s all about how course work is structured. You can also try to find more opportunities for students to learn actively.

One creative way to do so would be to ask your students to interview someone working in a specific field. You should also push for more group projects to get students more involved with each other.

Use Social Media Wisely

Social media can be a very valuable tool right now and can enhance the teaching experience when used correctly. Twitter can be used to direct students to certain resources, for example, or remind them of important deadlines. Some might want to use it cheekily and drop some hints about projects their students might be working on, or upcoming exams.

Use these tools to showcase content and post relevant information to certain groups or the whole school. This could work wonders for strengthening the sense of community and foster continuous engagement.

Understand the Importance of Feedback

You want to respond fast to any query students may have. While we understand you can’t do it instantly all the time, you have to be consistent with your responses and at least acknowledge questions as fast as you can.

Delaying responses is a sure-fire way to lose some of your students, and they might be seriously held back in certain aspects. You will then have to spend more time dealing with the situation, while issues with other students keep piling up. Communication has to be a two-way street, and if your students feel like you’re not there for them, they will simply start losing faith in you, and slowly start losing interest.

You also have to be consistent when it comes to grading assessments, and make sure that your students have a clear idea of their previous project before they jump into a new one. They might still have some issues to work on or false ideas about certain subjects. They might think that they’re on the right track, only to fail when it truly matters. It’s your responsibility to let them know where they are, and make the adjustments necessary.

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash
Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

Allow for Self-Assessment Opportunities

You also want to give more responsibility to your students to get them more invested. By allowing students to self-assess their work, you will allow them to claim responsibility for their learning. You could ask them to grade their participation level for instance or discuss a post they may have made. This could be both an eye-opener and a humbling experience. You could then review with them whether their assessment is correct, and where they could improve if they need to.

Make Accessibility a Priority

At the end of the day, there can’t be any engagement if coursework is not accessible. This is why accessibility should be a priority. You have to make sure that content is accessible during and after classes, and that students have a depository they can consult in case they have issues.

Give Students a Choice

Online learning allows for more customisable experiences for students. It doesn’t mean that you can or should rewrite the whole curriculum for them, but it’s the opportunity to give them some choices. Some students might prefer a certain delivery method for instance or might want to dig deeper into certain subjects. Focusing on some of the things they love while still staying within subjects and driving towards course objectives can be a great way to keep them interested.

Play with Gamification

In reality, the issue with engagement and online classes isn’t really about the format per se, but how it is used. Some have used aspects of gaming to teach, and online courses are the perfect medium for this approach. Quizzes can be given, and XP points could be awarded after passing a test on a particular module. Badges can be given for certain accomplishments and displayed on a leader board. All of this could help trigger that competitive instinct in them, and keep them all the more engaged.

Adapting to online classes can be a challenge for both students and teachers, but it’s your responsibility to make it as easy as possible. Make sure that you consider all of these options and see which ones you can implement in your classroom.

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