In brick-and-mortar classrooms, teachers gauge students’ engagement by observing them paying attention, taking notes, making eye contact, asking questions, responding to requests and following directions.

But an online classroom is different.

Many online instructors struggle with keeping students engaged. How can they tell if a student is engaged? What do engaged online students look like? How can online instructors make students feel like important contributors to the class and encourage active participation?

Recognize the cues for disengaged students

The first step to improving classroom engagement in a virtual classroom is to identify disengaged students. Using ReadyTech’s Inactivity Monitor, you can set a time limit so you are notified when students have not been active on their virtual training lab for a specific time period. For example, if you set a time limit of 5 minutes, a notification will be displayed after this time. Being informed of a student’s inactivity gives you the opportunity to ask that student a question or select him/her as the group leader during breakout groups. As an instructor, you can set up to 3 timers to identify the different thresholds of inactivity.

Tools to keep students engaged

ReadyTech offers several virtual training tools to help instructors increase the engagement level of their classes:

Public ChatPublic Chat and Private ChatPrivate Chat allows chat sessions between instructors and students. With the public chat tool, students and instructors can access the public chat area for universal updates or issues. The private chat feature provides student with the ability to have one-on-one conversations with an instructor and vice versa. Offering both chat options is important because some students prefer to ask questions in private.

ReadyTech’s STEP provides even more engagement via surveys, tasks, exams and polls.

Demo ViewDemo View helps to increase the overall engagement level of your online classroom. This allows the entire class to see an accomplished task. You can also ask disengaged students to demo a topic you just reviewed in the course. This will keep them on their toes. In addition, be sure to vary the content being shared with students. Share slides to explain instructions, then share your screen to demo a product feature, and finish-up by sharing a whiteboard to show how this feature fits within the product’s overall workflow.

WhiteboardWhiteboard provides an image library and drawing/text tools. Instructors can use the whiteboard feature to communicate flowcharts and process maps, as well as draw network configurations or other technology-based architectures. It also can be used to point to specific sections of the course material, or highlight which section of the syllabus the course is currently covering.

ExamsExams enable instructors to build quizzes and tests to gauge how students are comprehending topics in class.

Try sending a short quiz at the end of a lecture to reinforce the lecture concepts. This also helps you identify the students that may be struggling and need extra help. If there are questions that most students are answering incorrectly, review the correct answer at the beginning of the next course.

Finally at the end of the course, send a final exam to further reinforce the course’s topics and give students a sense of value. Students can also take your end-of-the-course exam to their manager to show they completed the course successfully.

Effectively using these virtual training tools will allow instructors to engage students in class. When students begin raising their hands, participating in discussions, sending chat messages, requesting help and responding to exams on time, you will know that your students are engaged and invested in the learning experience. Way to go!