BigBlueButton World 2024  |  June 25th – 27th

Tips for Increasing Practical Participation in Online Learning

The proximity of teacher and student in traditional classrooms facilitates rapport, discussion, understanding, and hands-on demonstration and supervision in practical courses. It has long been considered an optimal environment for learning. Despite online communication becoming ubiquitous worldwide for business and social pursuits, education has mainly remained in-person. How can online learning encourage conversations as rich as in-person ones?

The Growth of Online Learning

Universities have offered non-classroom-based correspondence courses since as far back as the late 1800s. Remote applications include Australia’s famous School of the Air, broadcasting via two-way radio to children in the remote outback from 1951.

Despite the popularity and success of non-physical schooling methods, and perhaps due to the persistence of historical quality and engagement concerns and perceived limitations for practical interaction, general education’s move to online teaching has lagged. However, with the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020 came a dramatic acceleration.

Educators and learners suddenly found themselves in the virtual classroom. While this mode of operation may have come naturally to some tech-savvy students and younger teachers, most were obliged to make a technological and strategic leap to accommodate their new reality. 

How Does Online Teaching Impact Teachers and Students?

While a virtual classroom has the clear benefit of safety during a pandemic or similar circumstances, the change initially presented a challenge. Apart from the practical barriers for students with technology limitations, people believe that online teaching limits some of the elements considered crucial for in-person instruction. Among them are open debate, one-on-one supervision, a group dynamic, a closed environment conducive to student focus, and teachers’ ability to gauge non-verbal signals and tone. However, BigBlueButton online learning software addresses every concern.

Despite these worries, researchers have found little difference in overall learning outcomes based on online classes, instead noting slight advantages. Benefits include more accessible training material, easier access to teachers, a safer space for inhibited students to engage, and the option for tailored speeds of learning. Learners can also strengthen valuable life skills through more innovative means of education: engagement, self-assessment, and the development of greater self-discipline.

How does an online environment impact learning that traditionally requires a hands-on approach?  

Despite the popularity and success of non-physical schooling methods, and perhaps due to the persistence of historical quality and engagement concerns and perceived limitations for practical interaction, general education’s move to online teaching has lagged. However, with the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020 came a dramatic acceleration.

Educators and learners suddenly found themselves in the virtual classroom. While this mode of operation may have come naturally to some tech-savvy students and younger teachers, most were obliged to make a technological and strategic leap to accommodate their new reality. 

Tips to Increase Practical Participation Online

Experiential and hands-on work is invaluable, as most students learn best by doing. However, teaching applied subjects or classes online is not as daunting as you may think. As with any other class, preparation and engagement are essential, as is the learner’s motivation to participate—here are some helpful reminders and hints.

    • Ensure that your learners are familiar with your online learning software such as our BigBlueButton solution: To avoid unnecessary delays and difficulties, make sure that your students know how to use the software, particularly video demonstrations, webcam operation, and recording, which will allow you to access their practical work during and after the lesson.  
    • Ask your students to prepare their workstation and gather the necessary items ahead of time:[2]  Allow students time and provide them with clear instructions for what they need and why and how to set up their areas. Two essential items required are a headset and microphone to optimize listening and participation. Provide accurate indications of the time required for the task to manage expectations.
    • Set realistic tasks: Of particular concern in large classes is failure to submit assignments. Students are likely to ignore projects that are too difficult or too easy. Setting achievable goals that learners can complete alone with minimal assistance will encourage participation, enjoyment, and completion. Ensure that projects are closely related to the course objectives and meaningful for the student. Assigning a course mark to the task is a reliable way to increase participation and submission. 
    • For smaller classrooms, follow a phased approach: To ensure students understand both the task and the sequence of steps involved, employ stages in your demonstration:
  • First, show the students the task at an average speed, with limited verbal input.
    • Follow this with a slowed-down version, explaining each element in-depth and inviting questions.
    • Now perform the task once more but ask the learners to explain. Rotate learners for each portion of the demonstration. Ask them questions about what they’re doing and why. Repeat this step until learners are comfortable.
    • Finally, ask students to conduct the task themselves, alone but under your supervision.
  • For larger, more diverse classrooms, utilize a combination of approaches: Demonstrate the task to students at an average pace with limited verbal input, followed by a slowed-down version, explaining each element and inviting questions. For this larger audience, ensure your demonstration is impactful and engaging yet effective and efficient. Now have learners complete the task individually or in breakout groups, depending on the size and homogeneity of your class. Our breakout room feature allows you to ‘pop in’ to each room to gauge performance. A representative from each group can provide feedback once the task is complete, with questions and answers clarifying any problem areas. Utilize our chat system and multi-user whiteboard for discussion. Evaluate individual efforts via a photo of the completed item/task combined with a survey assessment to confirm understanding. 
  • Provide detailed instructions: Ensure each step of the task is represented visually and in writing to help students accurately recreate and practice each step alone. Use our secure sharing and recording features to provide annotated images, a video demonstration, or a lesson recording for your students to review.
  • Provide feedback and evaluation: Provide feedback soon after submission, giving specific feedback and examples for improvement, if appropriate. Our chat system, whiteboard and emojis allow immediate feedback from the educator or the class. For group efforts, consider peer-review. Learners can again use the whiteboard to comment and our polling facility for a real-time thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Ensure that students know and respect boundaries. If the task is less tangible and more behavioural, such as meditating, have your students complete questionnaires as part of their report.

 

Incentivize: To increase participation, consider offering prizes or entry into competitions. In the short term, use emojis in our chat system to provide immediate encouragement and kudos.

Despite these worries, researchers have found little difference in overall learning outcomes based on online classes, instead noting slight advantages. Benefits include more accessible training material, easier access to teachers, a safer space for inhibited students to engage, and the option for tailored speeds of learning. Learners can also strengthen valuable life skills through more innovative means of education: engagement, self-assessment, and the development of greater self-discipline.

How does an online environment impact learning that traditionally requires a hands-on approach?  

Despite the popularity and success of non-physical schooling methods, and perhaps due to the persistence of historical quality and engagement concerns and perceived limitations for practical interaction, general education’s move to online teaching has lagged. However, with the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020 came a dramatic acceleration.

Educators and learners suddenly found themselves in the virtual classroom. While this mode of operation may have come naturally to some tech-savvy students and younger teachers, most were obliged to make a technological and strategic leap to accommodate their new reality. 

We Can Help You Succeed Online

To maintain the meaningful engagement that teachers and learners are used to, BigBlueButton online learning software offers educators a collaborative, open-source hub of online tools and resources. Developed by teachers specifically for education, we are the best online learning app to embed into your existing LMS or include as a plug-in. With our software and support, you’ll utilize new and interactive methods for successful digital delivery, including reliable recording, and have access to tools for evaluating student comprehension with real-time feedback.

With future education moving virtual or, at minimum, supporting a hybrid model, leveraging our bespoke software, resources, and support is essential. We will continue to offer you the most up-to-date and relevant online tools through ongoing input from users and developers.