10 ways to make online classes more interactive
Online classes don’t have to be one-sided. Here are 10 ways to make online classes more interactive so you can enrich your students’ learning experience.
Online and virtual learning have been around for years, but the recent COVID-19 pandemic emphasized their importance, and the world is finally taking notice.
While online courses solve the demand for more flexible, remote learning opportunities, educators sometimes struggle to mimic the in-classroom experience for their students. In-person classrooms are much easier to make interactive, so students can actively participate in their learning. Making online courses interactive is a challenge, but not impossible when you include interactive elements in your program.
While online and virtual learning seem to solve many problems, like personalized education and flexibility, educators still struggle to get students engaged to boost learning outcomes.
In this article, we’ll share how you can add interactive elements to your next online class. You’ll learn:
- What is online classroom learning?
- How to create online courses
- Benefits of interactivity for student engagement
- How to make online classes more interactive
- Other teaching strategies to improve participation in your virtual classroom
- How to use online learning technology to enhance student engagement
What is online classroom learning?
Online learning is education delivered virtually through the computer, not in a physical classroom. It’s also known as virtual learning or e-learning. Learners receive live lessons online or download pre-recorded videos and learning content.
Depending on the topic or course, in-person classes can be adapted to an online learning format. Some examples include:
- Direct to consumer businesses: Businesses in nearly every niche have developed online courses and programs for external audiences. We’ve seen businesses use them for customer/client education or onboarding, or to teach a skill or process related to their business or product offering for an extra income stream (or for free).
- Businesses for internal use: Online learning can act as an employee handbook with resources, videos, shared files, and templates. These can be used for things like onboarding, new employee education, or even culture or security training at scale.
- Self development courses: Whether it’s meditation, mindfulness or yoga, in-person studio classes can be taken online through video instruction.
- Post-secondary schools: It’s how educators kept educational institutions open when in-person learning was not possible during the pandemic.
Online learning can also be facilitated through a hybrid approach. Some post-secondary schools now offer regular online classes for much of the course curriculum. Sometimes, students gather in person a few times a year for in-person instruction, in addition to the online component.
Learning in a virtual environment is opening up new, flexible opportunities to share and receive knowledge in our technologically forward new world. It presents near-endless possibilities for both educators and learners.
How to create online courses
Your first step is to have a course topic in mind. Then consider the following:
- What delivery format(s) can you offer (video, audio, text)?
- Will students receive official certification upon successful completion?
- Will it be self-paced (students view content when they want) or cohort based with firm start and finish dates for the class?
- What Learning Management System (LMS) will you host the course on?
- How can you encourage learners' participation online?
Once you’re ready, start building your curriculum, just like you would for a physical classroom environment, adapting for online delivery formats where needed. Upload your course content to your chosen LMS and start selling or distributing the course to students.
Benefits of interactivity for student engagement
Ensuring students are engaged while learning is often much easier in a physical classroom. You can make eye contact with each student and give them a “nudge” if they seem to be losing interest or need additional support to understand the content. While some online courses allow for this face-to-face contact (such as through small group Zoom video calls), online classrooms are more challenging to manage student engagement, but not impossible.
The benefits of interactivity to boost student participation is clear:
- Engagement helps with knowledge retention. When learners are actively engaged in their learning, they more easily retain and understand the material.
- Instructors can improve course content and delivery: When students are engaged, instructors can more easily see what course content and delivery methods are best for creating engagement and boosting comprehension.
- Creates a sense of community: Students can engage with their peers and instructors, fostering a collaborative sense of community.
How do you make a virtual class interactive?
There are many fun ways to engage your students in online courses. A few ways include encouraging conversations between students, gamifying the learning process, encouraging video responses, and using a digital workbook. Below are our tried-and-true strategies to help you deliver an online course that’s interactive and engaging:
10 strategies to improve participation in your virtual classroom
- Set goals and expectations
- Facilitate feedback and conversations
- Encourage self-reflection
- Gamify your lessons
- Create PDF interactive workbooks
- Encourage video responses
- Change up the format
- Share bite-sized content
- Use storytelling to teach concepts
- Minimize distractions
1. Set goals and expectations
Giving your students a shared goal or letting them set personal goals for their course is a great way to motivate your students to participate. Giving people something to work towards gives their education purpose, so they’re more likely to put their all into your course.
At the beginning of your course, communicate clear outcomes (certification, pay raise, bonus). Remind them throughout your course of these expected outcomes to re-engage them.
2. Facilitate feedback and conversations
Online courses with a platform for student feedback (like a group chat box or an online forum software) and conversations encourage public participation. It provides a platform for students:
- to have conversations with instructors and their peers,
- to clarify or confirm understanding of course content, and
- to learn from the questions and insights of their peers
In real-life classrooms, conversations (both social and educational) are essential for student learning. It helps them talk through concepts with others to increase their own understanding. In an online classroom setting, look for an LMS that allows for digital conversations. This could be in the form of posting content on a digital discussion board or even through weekly, small group discussions over video calls with groups of students.
3. Encourage Self-Reflection
Even if you won’t read every single response, providing an opportunity for reflection helps confirm that your learners understand the course materials. It’s a way for the instructor to ensure core competencies are met and essential information is understood.
Rather than quizzes and tests, focus on open-ended questions that reinforce learning material. Have your students demonstrate their knowledge of these concepts by applying them to other areas of their life, work, or in the world.
4. Gamify your lessons
A little competition is good for comprehension and motivation. Look for opportunities to turn lesson plans into games or competitions. Here are some ways you can gamify your online lessons:
- Assign groups of students to work together to create a solution to a problem. The group with the best solution wins bragging rights.
- Create a BINGO-like game where students check off competencies or tasks to get BINGO.
- Assign badges or awards for reaching certain learning milestones.
- Create a leaderboard of top student scores or grades to motivate other students.
5. Create PDF interactive workbooks
Creating an accompanying workbook for your online course is a great takeaway that students can reference throughout the course and in the future. Make it more than a reference document and look for ways to make it interactive and hands-on. An interactive workbook is perfect for students to pause, reflect, and apply their learning.
Digital workbooks are excellent for online teaching as students don’t need to print or be mailed a hardcopy book. Interactive workbooks can be filled in online and can include links to any resources or online portals and other technology and systems you’re using for course delivery.
6. Encourage video responses
These days, most people can record a simple video (whether it be on their phone or computer). Instead of essay writing or written responses, encourage students to record a video of them discussing their answers. This video can be uploaded to your LMS or online class portal so others can view and comment. It’s a great way to encourage class discussions online.
7. Change up the format
Everyone has different learning and comprehension styles. Some learn better by listening or watching someone speak, while others prefer to read source material. Allow for various formats and styles of learning in your course.
It’s easier to keep a student's attention with shorter, bite-sized lessons, rather than longer ones. That’s why TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes, to encourage conciseness, while keeping the audience's attention. Consider following in the TED Talks footsteps and keep your lessons under 18 minutes each.
Same goes for your workbooks. With Wobo, you can group workbook exercises into modules and embed individual modules throughout your course. This helps keep content and interactivity bite-sized and organized.
Be mindful of including too much interactivity in your course. It can overstimulate your students and be more work than necessary to understand the concepts. Limit interactive elements to where students can demonstrate what they’ve learned.
8. Share bite-sized content
Online courses are usually broken into modules or sections. Break down your course materials into logical sections. Each module could teach a unique step in your process, or a focused sub-topic. Breaking it down into simple modules helps people learn better and more easily find the information they need in the future when they refer back to your teachings.
9. Use storytelling to teach concepts
Our brains are more engaged when lessons are taught through storytelling. Consider delivering more stories than lectures if you want to increase knowledge retention amongst your students. This might include sharing case studies or hypothetical scenarios that illustrate your learning topics.
You can encourage your students to use storytelling in their responses too. Provide discussion prompts and allow students to create a narrative or scenario based on that topic. It’s an excellent way for learners to demonstrate their knowledge in real-life (or fictional) applications.
10. Minimize distractions
If you’re teaching live or pre-recorded videos, minimize distractions as much as possible. Here are some great tips for video lessons without added distractions:
- Have a neutral, minimal background
- Wear clean, neutral clothing without too many logos (except your company logo) or visually distracting clothing, accessories, or items in your background that people may focus on.
- Avoid people (and pets) walking past
- Have a good working mic and high-resolution camera
- Mute other students during lectures that are not interactive to cut down on background noise from other students.
How do I make my online classes more dynamic?
To make your online classes more dynamic, look for ways your students can test or apply their learning. This may include an interactive workbook with fill-in-the-blanks worksheets and quizzes, videos and audio files students can listen to, group work and projects, and changing up your teaching formats and styles to ensure you include different styles of learners.
Using online learning technology to enhance student engagement
Choosing the right opportunities for interactivity and participation is key to the success of your students and your course. Interactivity is likely where most of the learning retention happens, so find ways to incorporate it into your virtual classrooms to enrich your students' learning experience. It will help with keeping students engaged and helps replace the interactivity that naturally comes with traditional classroom and face-to-face learning environments.
With interactive and digital workbooks for your students, you can create effective online learning formats to boost student engagement and learning outcomes. Wobo can be used as a course platform in itself, or you can integrate it into your existing LMS platforms.
Start a free trial of Wobo to learn how to use this interactive tool in your online classrooms today.