Top Tips for Virtual Learning – Part 1: Strategies for Engagement

STEM Scale-Up Program providers share strategies for engagement in virtual learning environments.
STEM Scale-Up Program providers share strategies for engagement in virtual learning environments.

The immediate shift to virtual learning has impacted nearly every Iowan. Many are still learning how to best navigate the new virtual territory. The STEM Council sought out best practices and advice for virtual learning from our 2020 STEM Scale-Up Program providers.

Part 1 of this two-part article, focuses on strategies for engagement. Part 2, featured in the fourth article of this newsletter, focuses on methods of communication. These tips and best practices from our Scale-Up Program providers are offered as a resource to help equip others with the tools, resources and strategies to be as effective as possible.

  1. Develop primary objectives for the audience to keep the sessions short and structured.
  2. Identify a user-friendly platform that best meets your needs. Consider an option that is accessible on any device. Attending a virtual training should be a positive experience and this requires the right platform and setup. If there are any applications, software or hardware that need to be learned, factor in time to provide instruction.
  3. Encourage participants to have their video on to see faces. Begin with a participatory activity that encourages creativity. At the beginning of the session, describe the different ways that you will be asking them to participate.
  4. Educators and students may not have access to classrooms, labs and equipment. Look for ways to work around this, such as the use of household materials.
  5. If you have an activity that works really well in a face to face setting, find a way to modify and adapt it to a virtual setting. Be creative and think about items and materials in new and innovative ways.
  6. Try mixing up the activities done while learning synchronously and provide asynchronous activities to allow for a break and flexibility during the day. This offers the opportunity to learn offline, take care of needs and come back a bit refreshed.
  7. Allow time for passive work time. This is when participants are still on the virtual call and have time to work on their own. The facilitator is available for questions or support if needed. This will also reduce the amount of time that participants are looking at a screen during your time together.
  8. Whenever possible, have a dedicated person to support the virtual environment so the facilitator can focus on facilitating and the support person can handle letting people in to the session, sharing links to resources, watching for questions in the chat, setting up breakout rooms and managing other needs that may arise.

(Continued as Part 2 – the final story of this newsletter.)

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