In fall 2020, approximately
75% (11.8 million) of all undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one distance education course, and
44% (7.0 million) of all undergrads exclusively took online courses. This number dramatically increased from
years prior due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and online learning continues to be part of the
While online education is becoming increasingly popular amongst k-12 education and college students, it can be
difficult to keep students engaged with the coursework.
Online platforms allow for flexibility, but they can also open the door to outside distractions. It’s
challenging for any online teacher to find a strategy that encourages students to engage with the course
material and pay attention.
Here are some ideas to increase online learning engagement and promote effective digital learning while still
Include Captions in Online Learning Videos
One of the benefits of online learning is that it can be more accessible for
students, especially those that have disabilities.
If you are creating a course that is fully virtual with on-demand content, you may record and upload video
lectures for students ahead of time. Even if you're also streaming lectures in real-time, creating a video
library is a helpful idea. However, it is important to make sure that they are accessible for all students in
Simply adding subtitles to your video lectures can help all kinds of students learn better, but it’s especially
important for those with hearing impairments. With Maestra’s subtitle generator tool you can easily
add accurate subtitles in over 80 languages.
All you need to do is upload your video and audio file and Maestra will automatically generate the subtitles
for the video.
Leverage Visual Aids
Online teaching can be difficult with the short attention spans of modern students. Getting them to focus on a
task is tough, but drawing on more senses can help. Visual aids provide context and examples while keeping
instructors on track during the lecture.
As an instructor, it’s easy to overcompensate with a lot of moving parts and visual engagements to try to keep
Visual aids are an important part of online instruction but don’t rely on them solely. Be mindful of the visual
components you include. Graphs, charts, relevant memes, and more can all help. Pay close attention to the design
of any slides/videos you use, as you don’t want them to be overly busy.
Active learning strategies are the best way to engage students. Students may not enjoy them, but one of the
best ways to ensure your students are engaged is with pop quizzes. Sprinkle them in throughout the lecture, or
consider quizzing at the end of the entire video or stream.
Be sure to note in your syllabus that you may include pop quizzes. However, you don’t need to say exactly when
or how often they will be!
To ensure they are helpful and not overly stressful, make them worth a very small portion of your student’s
grade (or don’t grade them at all). Even if you don’t grade the quizzes, you can see which students are engaged
and which may need some additional assistance.
A quiz in this manner is a great way to test active learning, even if students don’t get every answer correct.
If students can recall readings from before class and the important facts given in the lesson, an instructor can
examine just how much students are retaining and learning.
Include Detailed Examples
It is important to provide detailed examples so that students feel better about engaging with the material and
learn more from the experience.
This is the best way to display key concepts of a lesson as it gives students context about the concept and
something to relate it back to, while also encouraging them to think about real-life experiences that they can
Make Engaging Content
Don’t be afraid to use different mediums to engage students. Create an active learning classroom, even if it's
online. Leverage multiple methods for course content, so that students can find strategies that they enjoy and
Depending on the course you are teaching, there may be more outside resources available that you can research.
For example, some social media videos can provide a lot of accurate information and can engage students because
videos can provide some visual aids you may not be able to do on your own.
If you are teaching something that may have a relative impact on current events or can relate to pop culture,
don’t be afraid to make references. They can help students understand the content by relating it to something
they already have some knowledge of.
Sound effects and music can also increase students' attention span as it keeps them in the learning experience.
For example, if you are teaching American History, have your students listen to musicals like Hamilton or 1776
and make comparisons between the two and the actual events.
Student engagement in online learning should be active and show that students are making efforts in their own
learning. One way to do this is by having students participate in online discussion boards. Students can create
and respond to discussion forums to respond to another response, ask and answer questions, and also make
connections beyond the online classroom.
Showcase Your Personality
A lot of what makes a course exciting for students is the instructor themself. Don’t be afraid to show a bit of
personality and be silly from time to time. Students will remember you more for the activities they are engaged
in and how much you helped them learn from those activities.
Hold Virtual Office Hours
Students may often have questions or concerns that they do not feel comfortable talking about during the class
session. If you are hosting virtual classes, it is a good idea to also hold virtual office hours.
The reason for this is to provide the same accessibility and flexibility to students that the online classroom
does. Not every student is a traditional student who lives on or close to campus. Some may be working outside
jobs or caring for their families outside of class time.
The students in your learning community may come from a variety of different backgrounds or circumstances that
don’t permit them to come to campus and visit your designated office hours.
How you host virtual office hours can be just as flexible as your classroom environment. This simple exercise
can increase the relationship between teaching and learning for you and your students.
You can either have set hours in the day, or if you want to provide students more flexibility in case they
can’t attend those set times, allow them to send you an email with their availability and schedule a time for
the two of you to meet in a virtual setting.
Use a virtual platform that is accessible to most folks, such as Zoom or Google Meets. This alone can increase
student engagement as it shows that you are willing to go the additional step to help students and build a bond
of trust that will encourage them to continue their education.
Provide Video Transcripts
Along with adding subtitles to videos, it is smart to provide transcripts for any
recorded video lectures or any outside video content.
This, again, increases accessibility, but also
assists students who may find it difficult to listen to a lecture for an extended period of time.
Students can follow along with the transcript to increase retention. This is very helpful for students who have
hearing impairments and those who learn best with written content.
Maestra will do all the work with their efficient and accurate video to text transcription tool. Upload the video you
want to transcribe and Maestra analyzes the file to provide an accurate transcript of the video. If there are
any inaccuracies, you can manually go in and correct them.
If you have any teaching assistants or students who want to assist, you can share the transcripts with them to
help edit and make sure they are accurate.
Use Maestra Software to Boost Online Learning Engagement
Maestra wants to make sure that all of your students are able to access and engage with online learning. Our
tools are built to assist students and you by providing accessible transcripts, subtitles, and editing
capabilities to make your online classroom experience seamless.