How to make online learning more interactive and interesting

William Shakespeare once wrote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat.”

Although Shakespeare wasn’t referring to a pandemic four centuries after he passed, his words ring true in light of the tempestuous turn that everyone’s lives have taken lately. As we endeavour to navigate these times, our role as educators is no longer mere impartment of knowledge: our learners need us to give them a sense of normalcy. Our students struggle with uncertainty over crucial exams, miss out on precious time with friends, and adapt to a strange, new world. Engaging our students meaningfully amidst the dreariness of sitting in front of a screen for 7 hours must be at the crux of all our lesson plans.

Keep it essential.

Teachers often feel that students are too quiet and unresponsive on zoom. After all, being in your room just isn’t the same energy as being in a bustling class. As you structure your lessons, distinguish between the topics your learners have prior knowledge about, and concepts that require you to step in and explain. Does it make sense to spend an hour with Grade 10 talking about types of pollution? Instead, dedicate class time to topics that lend themselves to enriching discussions.

For simpler topics, hand the reins of your class to the students as they teach it to peers. They can use Google Slides to present their research, or make fake Instagram stories that depict their understanding. They may meme the topic, make a fun game, record a video advertisement, or create a photo story. Allow students to play to their strengths; and you’ll have them talking in no time.

Use tech to get students actively involved.

Not all classes lend themselves to unguided exploration and research. It’s natural to feel apprehensive about letting students independently take on complex conceptual topics. How do you ensure the students are listening in a class like that? A strategy that works is making them a live audience.

At check-points during your lecture, get students to solve something on a live polling platform. A lot of teachers find PearDeck to be a good addition to presentations. Platforms like, menti and (my favourite) polleverywhere allow you to create and use custom live quizzes. Play around with a range of live polls: want students to think of a list of reasons explaining something? Let them brainstorm answers on a shared answering app, and then upvote the responses they like best. Want them to annotate a diagram? Upload a clickable image on a site listed above. Let them drag and drop statements for sequential processes. There are numerous subject-specific websites that allow students to interact with real data and information. Let students find examples illustrating the concepts you’ve taught.

Create little opportunities to get students to do something more than just listen in the class.

Move around.

Your learners will be thankful for a lecture where they get to move around. Perhaps you could design a scavenger hunt related to your subject. Maybe ask students to gather simple materials at home, and conduct an impromptu experiment / demonstration to teach concepts such as buoyancy or wind. Get students to walk to an elder family member and ask their opinion on a topic they’re studying right now. It needn’t even be academic: did someone forget to do their homework (again)? They must now dance for a minute, run around their room or do five push-ups. Little fun activities like these will lighten your class atmosphere, and get students to focus better.

Check in.

Online learning can be exhausting. It is important to reflect and see if your ideas are working. Conduct an anonymous poll to see how confident students are after a unit. Use quizzing apps for consolidation. Students manage a lot of subjects and teachers with varying expectations: it is important to establish dialogue about their workload. Let the class decide when the deadline for an assignment should be, or keep it flexible. Offer choices about the format in which students can do their homework.

It’s not just about the academia, either. Check in with your students about how they’re feeling. Are they scared of infection? Feeling anxious about exams? Are they missing their friends from another class?

Most importantly, don’t lose sight of what matters. Ten years from now, when students look back at these crazy times, they won’t remember how many online tools you used: they’ll remember that their teachers were kind, and patient, and didn’t give up on them. Sometimes, it’s easy for people to feel like they’re the only one who’s struggling, who’s frustrated, or barely getting by. But if you just hold on, just find the courage to face it all for another day, someone will come along and help you hear the music in the world again, and remind you that it won’t always be this way. As long as you try to be that someone for your students, you’re doing good.

Keepin’ it real, homies;
Nishant Dexter.

Image source-pexel


Nishant Dexter

Nishant Dexter

Geography Teacher
Aditya Birla World Academy


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