online learning more engaging for students
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3 strategies  (and tools) to make online learning more engaging for students

Making online learning more engaging for students is becoming an increasingly high priority today.

Whether we like it or not, we have to adapt to a new normal of increasingly frequent coexistence of face-to-face and online learning sessions. Even in a newfound health security state, it is difficult to give up the potential of online learning which, especially in certain contexts or in the presence of certain key factors, has proven to be highly effective.

Online learning currently represents a context in which what we can and cannot do is closely linked to the potential of the tools at our disposal. The close connection between the correct use of digital tools and the effectiveness of learning is much more relevant in online contexts than in face-to-face sessions.

This can generate a wide gap between those who have the tools to ensure proper online training and know how to use them correctly and those who do not. The result is often a significant drop in students’ attention to the extent of total disengagement. 

The first step to keep the attention and motivation of the class high is to know what the video chat software we are using can do. The second one is to integrate some other features made available by other online softwares.

We have highlighted 3  main strategies teachers can implement for improving students’ engagement and make online learning more engaging for students:


1. Polling 

It can be used as an engaging tool for assessing the students’ comprehension and collecting feedback on the lesson.

The most used video chat platforms come with polling features where the students see a question pop up on their screen.  Most of these platforms provide specific tutorials on how to use polls (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, WebEx Teams).

If you don’t have an integrated poll system you can exploit several free tools to integrate polling into your virtual classroom such as Poll Everywhere , PollDaddy, Flisti, Micropoll, Mentimeter,Swift Polling, Kahoot:, Socrative


2. Collaborative online work

Very often online lessons have a lack of interaction between participants. Most of the video conferencing platforms already support breakout rooms enabling discussions in small groups of students. Usually with a click the teacher can split students in small groups that can be used for specific assignments (Zoom, GoToMeeting). In addition to this you might want your students to collaboratively work on a library with online resources. This is possible using fantastic bookmarking tools such as Diigo, Evernote or Notion.

The interaction between students could be also based on visual environments that act as a virtual whiteboard for team collaboration. For this you can use apps like Mural, Miro or Padlet.


3. Discussions and presentations

Online environments are very effective for one-to-many communication, but not so effective for many-to-one or many-to-many communication for which face-to-face environments perform  much better. This is because in online communication the paraverbal aspects of communication are severely limited and communication itself is limited by technological constraints that cannot guarantee the same signal quality as in real communication.

Despite this, we must not forget that students’ involvement also depends on the possibility of interacting with classmates. This is why we must try to reproduce the same dynamics of interaction between students online as we do offline. 

This will be possible, with some differences, fostering the use of online forum and chat features embedded in the conferencing tools you already use such as Google Meet, Go To Meeting or Zoom. Chats, forums and instant messaging features can be used as backchannels for creating a back-and-forth dialogue among classmates and teachers, but, for example, you can also exploit the potential of Google Docs asking students for feedback and comments on their peers’ work. This will encourage a deeper reflection and self assessment. Sometimes you may want to embed audio and video. In this case you can use apps such as Flipgrid

Furthermore there are a lot of amazing tools for making spectacular presentations. Usually students are really motivated to present their work to classmates and teachers. It is possible to use a collaborative tool such as Google Slides or  a more mind-map style tool such as Prezi. The presentation can be transformed in a video with Animoto or in a poster using Glogster.


There are endless opportunities to maintain a sense of classroom community even in a virtual setting. It is up to us to find them out.