Online classes can range in size from less than ten students to more than ten thousand. This wide disparity in class sizes means that there is no one methodology that will be effective for engaging students in all classes. However, no matter what the size of the class is, it is important to make sure your students feel like they are a part of the class. The more engaged they are, the more likely it is that your students will succeed in the class and will continue to use what they learn after the class ends.
Groups and Partners
One common complaint about eLearning is a sense of disassociation or isolation. Most interaction in eLearning classrooms, happens through discussion boards or chat rooms. When students are posting simply to fill an assignment, then they are often not responding to each other. One way to work around this is to make most, or even all, assignments collaborative. Put students together as partners or in small groups to work on assignments. If possible, it is a good idea to set these partnerships based on similar availability.
Lectures and reading are consistently two of the least effective ways for most students to learn. Unfortunately, many eLearning educators chose to distribute content through written lectures or largely text-based slideshows. If your lesson must include a lecture component, then make it a video lecture with a strong visual component. Speak slowly and clearly, especially if you have a global classroom. Far better than a lecture, will be an interactive experience that has the ability for your students to apply what they learn.
Scheduled Class Times
While flexible scheduling is one of the advantages of eLearning, having scheduled class times is still helpful. Attendance may not be required, especially if the session can be recorded for students to be viewed later. Video chat is preferable over text-only options since the visual component will help you better connect with students. For classes larger than 30, you may want to split up class times, use moderators, or have students submit questions beforehand.
You want to have a fairly rapid response time for student questions. If you need then establish some defined office hours, outside of which, you will not respond to student questions. If your class size is too large for you to handle all the queries that are sent to you, then you need to make this clear at the beginning of the course. You may also need some assistants to help you with student questions. Responding promptly to student questions is an important part of keeping students engaged in your class.
If you want your eLearning students to be consistently successful, then you need to be involved in actively engaging them in your classroom. While some students can have a positive experience simply by reading lectures and completing assignments, this is not true for all of them. As eLearning becomes more prominent in the education system, educators will have to accommodate students with widely varied levels of initial interest in their classes.