With online classes in the trend, it is quite essential to indulge learners, ensuring that eLearning is effective. Time is of utmost significance when every second of your online classes are in check. It is no more about installing your webcam. It is certainly more than updating your daily lesson plans on what all to teach.
To make your classes interesting, you need to strategize on how to make your classes interactive. Their attention, involvement, and active participation are key matters you need to keep in mind while drafting your lesson plan.
You not only require teaching skills but also have to refine your creativity, too. Your skill sets must learn to go beyond the paradigm of smart learning instead of traditional educational methods. Your classes should be fun, reciprocating, and inspiring. Your teaching strategies must be innovative and motivating for your learners.
Now the question is what strategies you can adopt to make your online classes interesting?
Well, check out 26 industry experts’ best strategies that can be adopted to make online classes interesting:
1. Use the current media landscape within the course material
In the spring we went fully online at DePaul where I teach digital journalism classes. Keeping the attention and interest of students, both at the individual lecture level and for the entire class, proved challenging. Being a journalism class, I was blessed by being able to use the current media landscape within the course material. The most engaging classes, and the best feedback I got on the class, was using up-to-date examples to analyze and for discussion.
This required me to update the course material the night before or even the morning of class to find an applicable news story before our video editing lecture, for instance. Still, this helped show the students how to frame stories during COVID, and allowed us to discuss how the content we analyzed was created with COVID-19 limitations, and how that differed from pre-quarantine times
2. Bring in interesting guests to join your class
The first strategy is to make your online classes viewable or accessible as archives for relearning at a later date, ideally included in the price, or for a small premium. Intensive classes for new careers in real estate, finance, or investing require taking exams to get licensed, so the ability to go back and study or brush up in the event of COVID delays is a critical value-adding strategy that will increase the utility and lower sales reluctance for your classes.
The second strategy is for instructors to really practice their online, on-camera presence as orators and technology operators –– especially if your class is live and interactive with student comments during class. Having a pleasantly viewable background with helpful lighting and sound is of course par for any online course or lecture, akin to how top broadcasters deliver news and opinion online these days from a “home studio.”
The third strategy is to try and bring in more interesting guests to join your class –– perhaps even top students from your classes –– to make your lectures or topics or presentations more visually exciting and insightful as events.
With everyone stuck at home or working remotely, it’s actually far easier to invite famous or expert guests who may be available to join your class. We’ve all watched with bated breath to see which famous singer hops into the passenger seat with James Corden on Carpool Karaoke. I’m not suggesting you invite Elton John or Lady Gaga into your online classroom : ) yet the strategy of inviting the most influential or most noted experts in your class’s particular field of study is a plausible strategy to pursue as best you can going forward.
Baron Christopher Hanson, Lead consultant and Owner at RedBaronUSA
3. Ask for people’s opinion
I have a lot of experience with online classes, so I wanted to share one tip for making them more interesting. One strategy to make your online classes more interesting and interactive is asking people to participate in different polls during the class. The reason I’m suggesting polls is that it saves time on responses yet includes everyone’s input. If you just ask an open question, you may have time for only a couple of answers.
However, if you compile a list of engaging questions and put them into a poll, you will be able to see some of the group’s thoughts and even draw statistics in real-time. Zoom, for instance, has a very simple polling system allowing you to create all of the polls ahead of time. As you move through the lecture, you can launch specific polls and get the results instantly. It is an easy way of increasing the group’s dynamics and interaction.
- Return to posted topics that have not been fully discussed and promote contribution and reflection.
- Monitor participation and contact students individually if they are either not participating, or are taking over conversations and not permitting contributions from other individuals.
Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding says “An easy way to make online classes more interesting is to provide opportunities for the students to interact. For example, if you bring everyone on a video call then start it with a round of icebreaker questions. You can use prompts like, “which sandwich would you eat for the rest of your life?” or “what is something that most people wouldn’t know about you?”. These questions provide opportunities for people to form friendships and bond over shared experiences, which will make not just the call but the entire course more engaging for students.”
“I facilitate 3 to 5 live/online training classes each week on average ranging from 1 to 4 hours each. To keep participants more engaged in these sessions I use a combination of approaches from videos to checklists to challenging questions in breakout rooms,” says Daniel Feiman, Managing Director of Build It Backwards. Poll questions should act as a teaser for the upcoming topic; Videos need to clarify a single point in the presentation, yet be short enough (<3 minutes) to maintain attention; Breakout sessions need to contain just the right number of people [3-5] to encourage discussions and yet leave the possibility of a range of opinions; Case studies must be short & relatable to both the topic & those participating. A sprinkling of good books/articles with screenshots & a little background add credibility to the presentation. My participants seem to really enjoy the approach.”
4. Gamify online class experience
By adding games, you make it more interesting, fun, and exciting. For example, instead of teaching a lecture from start to finish where the teacher talks and the students listen, add mini-quizzes like quarters in a football game. Or, tally up a scoreboard at the end of the week to have weekly winners, and then same for monthly winners. This little move will get students more engaged. And when they’re more engaged, they learn better.
Jonathan Torres says “One of the things I am implementing into my course to make it more interesting is the gamification of modules. We are doing this by implementing challenges and rewards which incentives users to finish each module. Additionally, by providing badges, awards, and medals, users feel a sense of accomplishment for finishing individual sections of the course.”
Daniel Foley, Director of Daniel Foley adds “Keeping learners engaged is essential with digital teaching, and a simple way to do this is to make them a part of the lesson by including relevant but fun inserts such as quizzes, Q&A’s or mini-task presentations. Not only will this see people actively participating, but will also show the learners that not really paying attention could quite easily and quite quickly be seen. The responsibility to be a part of the learning is on them, but for you, these are great tools to make sure you are getting the best out of them that you can.”
5. Share examples like small stories
To make online classes interesting is to fill them with mini-movies using words. The human brain gets overloaded if it’s bombarded with concepts. We all had the experience of feeling brain-fog after math class. To make online classes interesting, we have to work with the way our brain evolved and is designed. Our brain is designed to learn first and foremost through stories.
Stories don’t have to be complicated, all they need is a beginning, a problem, then a solution. Therefore, the strategy to make online classes interesting is, for each concept you teach, include 3 examples as a story format. Stories are imagined in the mind. They’re like mini-movies, they’re entertaining, and they make concepts stick.
6. Think like a TV producer
My best advice to make online classes interesting is to model the format news producers have to use to keep viewers’ attention through a news block, which is about 7 minutes and to return after commercials.
Write a list of the tools you have available to you to use such as presenter camera, presenter props, screen share video, screen share audio, screen share graphics/memes, whiteboard, chat, viewer engagement emojis, etc.
As you structure your lesson, look for opportunities to incorporate all the tools you have without being distracting. There’s a tempo and a pacing to showing elements. And whatever you show should match the words you’re saying. See it, say it is the philosophy so that viewers don’t get overwhelmed.
7. Develop multiple learning options
To the extent possible, have some 1:1 conversations with students, listening to their interests, needs, challenges, goals, etc – and letting them know how you’ll keep this in mind, how the course can relate to them, how to succeed, etc.
Develop options for students – it could be different readings or videos depending on their interests, different ways of demonstrating their knowledge (posting a video vs doing a paper) – different ways for them to participate either synchronously or asynchronously.
Diane Gayeski, Ph.D., Professor of Strategic Communications at Ithaca College, teaching courses in instructional technology (her Ph.D. is in this area), virtual teams, new tech for corporate communications, etc.
8. Encourage people to interact
We make our online classes interesting by focusing on these key points:
- All our classes are live so it enables people to interact and stay focused
- All classes are no longer than 2 hours, but generally 1 hour
- We have our own company ’training’ arch – where we coach the experts on the introduction, the main part of the class, and then the outro, including things like questions, etc. This is to ensure very strict quality control on all our classes.
- We suggest that we don’t use mute as it encourages people to interact and chat unless of course it is disruptive and we all go onto mute
- Small group size with no more than 15 screens
9. Mix up the media you choose to include
Due to the current pandemic, more and more classes are going virtual. As someone who’s been teaching virtually, I’ve found that online classes are much more engaging when you mix up the media you choose to include.
My online courses are a solid mix of text, video, voice-overs, quizzes, and downloadable templates, checklists, and guides. This will help cater to all kinds of learners – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing.
David Adler, Founder of The Travel Secret says “A really effective way to make your online class more interesting and dynamic is to mix in different learning strategies in succession, so students can change the way they approach the topic more frequently and it doesn’t get boring. You can consider combining application exercises with auditory descriptions and visual representations because people learn in different ways and are more engaged by having to change the way they practice learning.”
He also recommends adding social elements to online classes. It’s really important to add some type of social element to your online class if you can because so many of us are missing out on those same chances for interaction, and if people know they have the opportunity to ask questions and also know they might be called upon for their thoughts, it helps keep everyone in the moment.
10. Deliver the best possible content in bite-sized pieces
I can say from a decade of experience teaching online during my 21+ years as a college prof that great online learning simply feels like great learning. That is, pedagogically speaking, if you’re successful in delivering online learning, the learner won’t even be (nor should they feel the need to be) focused on the “online” part, they’ll just be focused on how awesome the “learning” part is.
In large part, true learning tends to be its own reward, in both the short- and long-terms, so focusing on delivering the best possible content in short(-ish), bite-sized pieces tends to work best for the adult human brain. This gives sufficient input (i.e. content) to keep things interesting and engaging while at the same time providing enough time (i.e. between these short learning sessions) for the cognitive processing that is so absolutely crucial to the learning process.
Those are really the key ingredients necessary for great learning, online or otherwise: awesome content paired with the requisite processing time to synthesize and internalize it, making it your own.
Andrew Selepak, a media professor at the University of Florida explains “I have taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses online, and I will be teaching four undergraduate courses online this fall. The best way to make a class more interesting is to address all learning styles. PowerPoint lectures need to have images and .gifs as examples for visual learners. The instructor needs to talk about the material on the PowerPoints and give additional examples for auditory learners. And PowerPoint slides need to be text-heavy for Kinesthetic learners to take notes and the class must have assignments related to the material so they can learn by doing. When addressing all three learning styles, the class becomes more interesting because students can be engaged in multiple ways and it allows the instructor to cover more content hopefully leading to better retention of the material as well.”
11. Create private Facebook groups for students
We train people all across the country with a lot of our real estate courses/ mentoring programs and are always coming up with ways to keep students engaged and excited!
One strategy we have found that crushed all the others, is creating private Facebook groups for students and going live in the groups with relative, engaging content to keep everyone on the same page and amped up!
This one strategy has proved for better feedback, reviews, and the ultimate goal of the success of our clients and in turn better success for us!
12. Change the theme each class
First, I carefully review what content needs to be done live vs. on-your-own-ahead-of-time. So, I use the entire online live time for application and discussion.
Second, I use small groups that I shuffle for each activity to bring the number of people engaging at once down to 5 or 10. They work on a topic together and then come back and share. It’s a lot like what I would have done live in the classroom. And, it works.
Third, I ask people to use a virtual background. And, I change the theme each class. This gives them something to talk about and a way to get to know each other.
Erik Pham of HealthCanal also recommends Role-Playing and says “Nothing beats a drama or role-playing to making a class interesting. This makes every student participate and actively engage in it. It will help improve their critical thinking skills, ideas, and imagination. This activity is best for subjects like literature or English but may also be used in other subjects if applicable. This is possible in online classes who use Zoom or any platforms where everyone is in a video conference.”
13. Setup and run online classes like a pro
The number one way to boost interest in an online class is to have high-quality video. A sure-fire way for people to lose interest quickly is if they can’t see or hear the presenter or the materials adequately.
Give serious consideration, ahead of time, towards capturing the right camera shots and angles with the solid camera equipment, and always consider professional editing afterwards unless it’s a live format.
Aaron Emmel of Pharmacy Tech Scholar adds “In my mind, there are two essentials to making an online class interesting. First and foremost, you have to have a good virtual presence as a teacher. Body language and “stage presence” doesn’t come through the same in the video as it does in person. You have to be more animated and more enthusiastic about video; this may feel uncomfortable and unnatural at first, but you’d be surprised at the difference it can make in your virtual presence. Secondly, make sure to provide a live forum for communication even if the lectures are recorded. Your students have to feel connected; for this reason, I block time each week for a virtual classroom where students can engage with me directly.”
Mahwish Khan of Village Square used these strategies and increased the level of engagement and participation significantly:
- If you want the students to collaborate in real-time during your online classes, use Padlet.com to make learning visible for everyone.
- Use tools like Flipgrid.com to record short video responses that can be curated in one place.
- Quiz tools like Kahoot and Kialo.com can turn your class into a quiz show, with teams competing against each other.
Using these strategies and tools can allow your students to co-create the understanding of a given subject area/discipline rather than being passive recipients of the information.
14. Provide downloadable worksheets for each key lesson
When an online class is offered on-demand in a watch-only format, each individual participant can be engaged through homework. Downloadable worksheets for each key lesson with an outline to gather the necessary information, questions to be answered and implementation guidelines provide the participant with the resources necessary to customize the curriculum and solve their organization’s unique needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy, despite what ‘experts’ promote.
Each company, start-up,- or nonprofit, has their own individual culture, resources, and opportunities available to tap into and solve whatever challenge they face. By offering a customizable blueprint as a download, the enrollee is tasked to create to solve their own problem. Unlike ‘plug and play’ solutions, this creates ownership and shifts the responsibility to execute and adapt as needed from the generic outside solution to the individuals inside the organization. Creating solutions, like any imitative, need to have engagement through ownership to succeed.
15. Use short explainer videos
Explainer videos can improve online classes by engaging participants with its vibrant colors and eye-catching animation. The short and concise nature of an explainer video is also great for breaking down complex subjects into fun, bite-sized facts that can be easily digested.
Classroom activities are often boring — and an animated explainer video can lighten the mood by adding cute characters, cheerful narrators, and bouncy sounds into the equation. Explainer videos can also prevent information overload by breaking down a subject into several smaller parts — which then can be explained further by teachers.
Whether your goal is to explain a complex subject in online classes, an explainer video is customizable to suit your needs.
Paul Naybouris of Parallel Project Training says “When people are actively involved the classes will naturally be more interesting and the students or delegates will gain more from the session. Building a sense of community amongst all attendees will add interest – use chat or forum functionality to encourage group support and feedback. And finally, a tip for any type of class, mix up the format used to deliver the information. Why not try short animated videos using different voices to that of the main teacher/trainer”.
16. Try scoring method
We engaged in a reflection process that taps the power of experiential learning–to think about, get exposed to, and apply best practices, drawing from live experiences. You may have noticed that the more you share–and the more you include personal examples–the more you get back. We also used a scoring method of points leading up to a grade to encourage participation. Please remember [and apply] these lessons and share them with colleagues back in your organizations. Virtual teams can be effective when you create conditions that encourage interactions.
Randy Englund, Executive Consultant at Englund Project Management Consultancy
Hope you found valuable insights on how you can make your online classes interesting and successful. If you like this article, please share it on your social profiles and leave your comments down below.
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