How to engage remote students in higher education

With many tertiary education institutions offering hybrid and fully remote learning options for students, knowing how to effectively use online learning tools is a must. We know that students and staff can struggle with too many online seminars, self-motivation, and digesting content effectively. In this article, we explore how to engage students studying in a remote or hybrid format.

Fighting video conferencing fatigue

Online lectures and tutorials might have been appropriate in the rapid shift to online learning in March 2020, but in subsequent years we know learners need something different to really thrive. That’s why it’s important to design learning that doesn’t just rely on online versions of face-to-face teaching methodologies. 

In the fallout from the pandemic, and in years since, we’ve had the time to really investigate what it is learners want and need from their higher education institutions. It’s safe to say that longer online tutorials, seminars, and lectures are not it. In fact we know that synchronous classes using video conferencing software can be rough on students’ wellbeing.

The flipped classroom

So, what can be done? The flipped classroom is an approach that allows students to do the initial learning of new material at their own pace, but then receive the same guidance and support that they need from instructors as they integrate that learning. When you flip the classroom, you can use micro- or bite-sized learning to deliver content and then video conferencing tools to bring students together with instructors for subsequent discussions and deeper enquiry. 

Students will stay more engaged when learning is contained in short and digestible chunks than when it’s delivered in a monolithic 90 minute online lecture. Learnings can be repeated in different media so that outcomes are reinforced, without sacrificing student motivation.

Focus the user experience

Students have a lot on their plates. From assignments, to studying from exams, to their work and social life: they’ve got a lot to balance. So when it comes to navigating their online learning platform, they need to be able to find what they need, when they need it.

We’ve written about understanding user experience for higher education before, but it’s so important that it’s worth exploring further. Empathise with your learners and ensure they can access all of the content they need. Your course page doesn’t need to be entirely minimalist to be effective—in the same way, it doesn’t need to show students everything at once. Finally, consider using a Learning Content Management System to ensure students are always getting the most current version of any given piece of information, and that they can find it with ease.