What Strategies Help Maintain Learner Attention in Virtual Classrooms?

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    What Strategies Help Maintain Learner Attention in Virtual Classrooms?

    In the shift to virtual learning environments, academic instructors face the unique challenge of keeping students engaged. We've gathered insights from eight educators, including University Professors and a 2nd-grade virtual teacher, to share their strategies. From crafting a resonating narrative to utilizing Google Workspace for collaboration, discover the specific tactics they've used to maintain learner attention in a digital classroom.

    • Craft a Resonating Narrative
    • Engage with Interactive Tools
    • Foster Interactive Conceptualization
    • Blend Techniques for Active Learning
    • Implement Virtual Participation Tactics
    • Amplify Online Voices in Hybrid Settings
    • Incorporate Variety to Sustain Attention
    • Set Clear Expectations and Engage
    • Utilize Google Workspace for Collaboration

    Craft a Resonating Narrative

    Picture this: a virtual classroom, where the dance of attention plays out in the delicate realm of one-on-one or group interactions. In this digital space, the key lies not just in delivering information but in crafting a narrative that resonates with the very core of the human mind—the decision-making middle ground.

    Imagine your words as threads weaving through the fabric of emotions, connecting with the intricate tapestry of intelligence. To truly captivate your audience, your communication must possess a powerful essence. It's like a secret formula, a concoction that stirs the middle mind into action.

    In my virtual teaching adventures, I've discovered the art of infusing elements like mantras, clapping, and chanting. These aren't mere rituals; they're tools to amplify the impact of my message. The rhythmic beats of clapping synchronize with the heartbeat of attention, creating an immersive experience. Mantras and chants, like magic spells, cast a spell on the minds, ensuring that the content delivered leaves an indelible mark.

    So, in the realm of virtual classrooms, where attention is a prized possession, I've learned to speak not just to the intellect but to the very soul of my audience. The power lies not just in what is said, but in how it's said—a harmonious symphony that orchestrates the dance of the middle mind, compelling it to sway in the direction of understanding and decision-making.

    Sarvottam Kumar
    Sarvottam KumarMeditation, Yoga Philosophy and Pranayama Breathwork Teacher, Mantra Yoga & Meditation School

    Engage with Interactive Tools

    I've found that using live, interactive tools such as Mentimeter or Kahoot! keeps students engaged. They are required to participate, and there is some gamification involved, enhancing a sense of competition and accomplishment.

    Kelli Anderson
    Kelli AndersonCareer Coach, Texas General Insurance

    Foster Interactive Conceptualization

    My default mode is interactive teaching: interactive conceptualization. It makes students stay awake and interested because they talk as much as I do, maybe even more. It has been a truly great learning experience. I also get them to read texts and discuss among themselves what they have read. I then focus the class on more practical, hands-on learning that literature alone may not teach.

    Olajide Olagunju
    Olajide OlagunjuProfessor of Conflict Resolution, Bakke Graduate University

    Blend Techniques for Active Learning

    Capture Attention:

    • Mix up lectures with polls, quizzes, and group activities.
    • Break down information into bite-sized chunks.
    • Use multimedia (video, images, audio) to keep things fresh.

    Boost Interaction:

    • Group projects, discussions, and peer feedback encourage engagement.
    • Create online forums for ongoing discussion.

    Build a Positive Space:

    • Get to know your learners and their needs.
    • Set clear expectations and promote respect.
    • Recognize and reward participation.

    Mind the Tech:

    • Provide clear instructions and troubleshoot issues.
    • Minimize distractions with dedicated devices and muted mics.
    • Offer breaks and asynchronous options for flexibility.

    The key is to keep things interactive, engaging, and inclusive!

    Ahmed Banafa
    Ahmed BanafaProfessor, San Jose State University

    Implement Virtual Participation Tactics

    Here are some very specific tips for when the participants, as well as I, the presenter, are all virtual:

    1. Turn on the camera.

    2. Start with an early, simple chat question (such as location, a general question, or a 'good news' moment) so people get used to using the chat feature.

    3. Go no more than 5-6 minutes without an exercise: vote live (using a 10-point scale with a raise of hands or in chat), have people call on someone, do a 'daisy chain' call where I call on person 1, then they call on person 2, who calls on person 3, etc., conduct a survey and share scores, offer a reward (e.g., a free book) for the best answer or question.

    4. Have people share a 'story' from their background to get to know the participants by what is on their shelf or in their office; this almost always works.

    5. Have someone chat someone else a question or comment.

    Dave Ulrich
    Dave UlrichRensis Likert Professor, University of Michigan - Stephen M. Ross School of Business

    Amplify Online Voices in Hybrid Settings

    One strategy I've found is to ensure, in hybrid contexts, that the students in the room are responsible for making sure that their colleagues online are recognized and amplified. There's no specific incentive for this, but enough students want to do the right thing, or want to do what the instructor asked, that it helps a great deal. If the people online are able to ask questions and raise topics, of course, they are more engaged.

    Joanna Bryson
    Joanna BrysonProfessor of Ethics and Technology

    Incorporate Variety to Sustain Attention

    As an academic for the last 15 years, I have learned to navigate the challenges of maintaining learner attention. The principles around maintaining attention that apply to the physical classroom are even more important in a virtual classroom. The key to maintaining attention, in my view, is recognizing that you need to mix things up. Delivering a long monologue is a surefire way to ensure you lose the audience's attention. Instead, you should aim to incorporate various changes that break the monologue. For example, if delivering a lecture online, I have found that breaking up my lecturing with questions for the audience, breakout sessions, pauses asking the audience to internalize the message, and even occasional uses of humor goes a long way toward maintaining learner attention in a virtual classroom.

    Dr. Mark Farrell (Fia)
    Dr. Mark Farrell (Fia)Founder, CEO, Associate Professor & Actuary, ProActuary Jobs

    Set Clear Expectations and Engage

    I approach the challenge of maintaining learner attention through several routes. First and foremost, our school has clear expectations. I have clear expectations. Students understand those expectations. Then, I try to make learning engaging by incorporating all sorts of learning styles when I am teaching state standards. My partner and I work diligently to break down the walls of our classroom 'home.' AI has been our new discovery, and we are loving it!

    Victoria Conley
    Victoria Conley2nd grade virtual teacher, CMCSS k-12 Virtual School

    Utilize Google Workspace for Collaboration

    Extreme tech-savviness is helpful but not necessary for successful remote teaching. Starting out teaching online, I learned how to use Google Workspace tools (e.g., Docs, Slides, Jamboard, and Sites) well because they allow for real-time student collaboration. This focus enabled me to observe students working on projects or solving problems, creating an interactive and dynamic environment. Learning one ed-tech tool provided me with time to continue teaching successfully and to continually add to my teaching bookbag as I grow.

    Neal Green
    Neal GreenDirector of Online Operations and Associate Professor of Education, National Louis University