How to get students to participate in the digital classroom

As remote learning and online teaching have gained momentum, particularly in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, more educators have reported difficulties such as absenteeism, incomplete work or lack of submission, and more difficulty engaging with students and ensuring inclusion. The rate of learning and the quality of retention may be suffering. Both teachers and students have had to adjust their modes of teaching and learning and apply increased diligence.  

In any classroom, whether physical or virtual, encouraging students to participate can be a challenge. Learners can be distracted, quiet, or inhibited, making interaction less frequent and learning less efficient. The digital classroom environment magnifies this effect. Students are at home with substantially more distractions present, and being alone and at a distance may feel even more disconnected from the class.

However, just as in traditional classrooms, there are ways to promote participation through engagement. The more engaged students are, the more likely they are to be learning.

Encouraging Student Participation in the Digital Classroom – Tips

With remote education, more than ever, engaging the learners is crucial, and holding their attention vital. 

Encourage synchronous learning, that is, learning together as if in an actual classroom, by:

  • Encouraging questions during and post-lesson: Via chat or audio, encourage learners to ask questions with responses from you or the class. This Q & A will help clarify points, stimulate discussion and give you an idea of the extent of understanding. Gently encourage the quieter students to raise their hand to voice any concerns or even message you with their questions privately. 
  • Using break-out rooms: Allow students to collaborate in groups to answer questions posed by the teacher, with the teacher providing real-time feedback and guidance for each room. You’ll create a safe environment for learners to engage and express opinions under your supervision. To ensure equal participation, have each student take turns presenting their discussion findings back to the class.


Equally, ensure asynchronous learning, where the student studies or works on an assignment alone: 

  • Apply individual study time and feedback: Use whiteboards to pose questions, allow sufficient time for learners to evaluate and establish responses, and then write them down on the shared ‘board’ for discussion. This approach will provide you with a strong sense of student understanding, and you can share feedback with each learner privately to encourage and guide them.
  • Consider a combination of approaches: A powerful way of ensuring engagement and learning is to combine methodologies. Pose a question or set a task, then allow students to brainstorm – together or in groups in break-away rooms. Follow this with individual work on the question or task, followed by group or classroom feedback sessions. Likewise, individual work followed by group brainstorming will also work. 
  • Set homework: Similarly to real classrooms, students must work outside of ‘school’, alone or in groups, to help them learn responsibility, diligence, and independence. Tasks set and completed ‘at home’ can be assessed as usual through work submitted or through feedback or demonstrations in the classroom. Provide a known channel of support for learners by establishing office hours for students to contact you for assistance. 


Creating a feedback loop with students is essential to maintain engagement and check their understanding. You can do the following:

  • Daily reviews: At the start of each class, revise what was taught and learned in the previous lesson. You can do this verbally by asking questions or setting a real-time poll or survey – a test for the learners to identify any points missed or requiring elaboration.
  • Noting progress during group or individual tasks: You will gather meaningful feedback on each student’s progress during their synchronous and asynchronous tasks. You can use this insight to assess students and provide guidance to the class as a whole or each learner privately. Maintaining an ongoing feedback loop with each member of your course will keep them on their toes, engaged, and moving in the right direction. As in any class of diverse children, some will need more assistance and others less, but none will drop behind or fail to thrive through lack of attention. 
  • Provide incentives: Allow rewards for participation such as leaving time at the end of tasks for play or socializing or introduce competitions, either within groups or classroom-wide. Many children are competitive, and coming first is a significant motivator that will trickle down to competing groups. You can even let the children judge each other’s work and decide on outcomes. Be careful to set boundaries of fairness and respect.   

What Sets BigBlueButton Apart Regarding Web Conferencing Software for Education

We offer free virtual classroom software, an open-source education-specific web conferencing solution designed for remote learning. Ours is a readily accessible and comprehensive option designed to meet diverse needs and uses. Our software allows moderators complete technical control and, even though open-source, is customizable. What’s more, our software is purely web based meaning there is no need to install an application. It’s also fully responsive, allowing users to use it on their mobile devices.

Our users can securely host ‘classes’, share screens, presentations, audio and visual materials, word and pdf documents, and recordings. Our solution further provides the perfect collaborative tools to address student engagement and participation concerns:

  • Polling: Our survey option allows you to evaluate student recall of lesson content quickly and frequently with immediate results.
  • Multi-user whiteboard: Interacting on the shared whiteboard feature allows students to demonstrate what they know and openly discuss or debate opinions.
  • Break-out rooms: This collaborative feature allows you to gauge the extent to which learners can apply their knowledge through supervised group brainstorming, task completion or problem-solving 
  • Chat systems: Our solution’s public and private chat facility allows a feedback loop among students and between teachers and learners to ensure meaningful participation, inclusion, and evaluation. Apply this feature for questions and answers and use our selection of emojis for immediate, relevant, and dynamic feedback. You can also call on specific students for their insight, as one would in a physical setting.     
  • Shared notes: Increase collaboration through shared notes and documents for equal access and inclusion.


We strive to provide the best web conferencing solution along with educators and our users’ input. If you have any feedback, insight, or development requirements, please contact us.