Digital Tools For Learner Engagement in the Virtual Classroom – Part 1

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The sudden onslaught of the Covid-19 crisis and the pandemic situation displaced education from the physical environment.

Almost overnight, teachers all over the world had to learn to use technology to meet their students virtually, take attendance online, create platforms where daily interaction could take place, set up meetings for regular classes, give homework and assignments online, get students to submit them online, download them, do the assessment and then send them to the learners and so on.

This move to online mode of education forced educators to quickly upgrade their technical skills and grapple with unfamiliar digital tools and technology to keep learning going.

In the physical classroom, cues like:

* the facial expressions of learners,

* their language and tone,

* their demeanour

* body language,

* their posture,

* the answers given by the learners orally in the physical classroom,

* the manner of answering – whether hesitantly or confidently or haltingly,

* observing students write in their notebooks,

* correcting students’ notebooks

– all these provided feedback to teachers about the efficacy of the teaching methods used.

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In the physical classroom, Teachers could do the following:

  • encourage learners to set goals,
  • monitor their progress,
  • give them feedback

and

  • keep the teaching learning process functioning smoothly.

However, in online interactions, teachers have no such aids to check if the learners are actively listening or getting distracted; whether they have grasped concepts taught or not.

Teachers feel at a loss to know if learners are engaged or what could be done to motivate them, in the virtual environment.

Certain aspects of the teaching learning process are important, regardless of whether the delivery is face to face or through online classes.

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These aspects include but are not restricted to :

  • ascertaining the level of student interest in the class,
  • helping students set goals according to their individual abilities,
  • giving learners prompt feedback,
  • keeping students motivated,
  • taking formative assessments to check the learners’ understanding of the subject matter.

Even in the virtual environment, peer learning and collaboration[1] has to be enabled to promote the emotional and social development of learners.

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References

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[1] From the 2014 Gates Foundation report, “Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools

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