Keeping Students Engaged through Distance Learning

COVID-19 has been a hard hitter over the last few months. Closed businesses, shelter in place orders, and empty classrooms are now commonplace. Whether you feel like you have distance learning down to a science, or you’re still scrambling for ideas to engage your students, this article is for you.

We were so happy to partner with Miranda Cole, a fantastic Adobe Certified Associate teacher in Florida, to brainstorm some ideas for keeping students engaged while in a distance learning environment. Miranda’s creative tools and ideas are sure to spark some ideas for your digital classroom, and help you finish the year with a bang. Let’s dive in!

  • First order of business: Create a schedule for accountability.
    • Keeping students on a basic schedule during a crisis or large change is so important. At Miranda’s school, each day has two classes, and two help sessions. Each help session is specifically tied to one of the class periods. This gives students a chance to not only engage in the standard digital class lecture, but also contact Miranda for additional help if needed.
  • Second item on the list: Find a video conferencing tool.
    • We’re all doing a lot of video calls lately, and this is especially crucial for a distance learning classroom. You can use Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype. Miranda highly recommends Zoom, especially using their recurring meeting options. Unfortunately, in today’s online environment, you will need to take a few precautionary measures to make sure your students are safe online.
    • Keep the links and passwords confidential. Miranda only posts the link in her Google Classroom and makes sure each meeting requires a specific password. Additionally, she enables a waiting room for each call, so each student must be admitted individually. Zoom is also a great option because you can set each meeting to automatically record, so you don’t need to worry about students missing a class if they can’t dial in at a specific time.
  • Once you’re ready for class, start lessons with an out-of-the-box activity.
    • It’s not always best to jump straight into business with your students. They’re stuck at home and miss the comradery and fun that comes with seeing their classmates. Miranda has a specific “Fun Day” period for her students. She creates playlists of their favorite songs, everyone turns on their video, and they all dance and relax together. “It’s important to me that my students know that I’m still here! I still care about them! I want them to feel like we’re connected, even if it is just virtually,” said Miranda. We couldn’t agree more.
  • Now that your students are dialed in, be sure to make class fun.
    • Easier said than done right? How can you make a distance learning class just as engaging as your classroom at school? Miranda has discovered plenty of fun (and FREE) tools. Here are a couple of her favorites:
      • Kahoot!: Kahoot is a game-based learning platform that brings engagement and fun to schools around the world. They make it so easy for teachers to use. There are just three simple steps:
        • Create: It only takes minutes to create a learning game or trivia quiz on any topic. Miranda breaks the Kahoot quizzes down by objective, so the students are still progressing toward their industry certification, but in a fun way.
        • Host or Share: With Kahoot you can host a live game with questions on a big screen (like in a traditional classroom) or share the game with remote players (like in a distance learning classroom).
        • Play: From here, the game begins. Your students can join your Kahoot game with a simple pin, and then answer the questions you created from their own devices.
          • One of the awesome parts about Kahoot Is that you can either play in “Teach” mode (allowing you to play the game in your digital classroom), or “Assign” mode (allowing you to give the quiz as a homework assignment to your students).
      • Quizizz: Quizizz is a platform like Kahoot. You can access free gamified quizzes for every subject to play in class and at home. The best part? You can pick an existing quiz or create your own for review, formative assessment, and more.
        • Just like Kahoot, you can play Quizizz live or assign for homework. If you’re playing live, your students simply visit the designated Quizizz URL, and then enter the pin. You can also share the login link directly through Google Classroom, Teams, Twitter, and other platforms.
        • Reporting works great from Quizizz as well. You can pull the results from the individual quiz and assign students grades based on the percentage of questions they answered correctly. Additionally, you can look at the analytics for the quiz overall. This will help you see what knowledge gaps persist in your classes, and what areas to focus on in the future.
  • Last but not least, keep in contact.
    • Feeling connected even when you’re not together is the goal of distance learning. If you’re not able to maintain contact, you won’t be able to ensure that your students are progressing and learning from home. There are tons of communication applications out there, but Miranda’s especially loved the Remind app.
    • The Remind app is a communication portal for students and parents. You don’t need to worry about having students’ personal numbers (since this can create privacy issues). You simply connect with students through the application, either to an entire class or individual student. You don’t want to spend all your time buried in email, when you can be focusing on teaching. Apps like Remind help streamline communication in the distance learning environment.

Thanks to Miranda, you’re ready to tackle the world of distance learning. If you’re hoping for a more visual demonstration of some of the applications that Miranda mentioned, watch the full webinar here.

You can also learn from teachers just like Miranda at our CERTIFIED Educator’s Conference. This year is virtual and free(!) and will be an awesome opportunity to connect with fellow CTE teachers across the world. Learn more about CERTIFIED here.