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Supporting and Engaging Students: How Educators are Transitioning to Remote Teaching

Spring of 2020 brought COVID-19 and school closures. A rapid transition to remote  learning for traditional school programs became the only way forward. Students and teachers from kindergarten to post-graduate schools adapted curriculum and lectures (and everything else) to an online format. 

As a partner to healthcare education schools, faculty and students around the world, the shift we at Picmonic witnessed was miraculous and impressive. Educators raised the bar by doing everything they could to avoid letting their students fall behind.

During this time, educators spent countless hours dedicated to remote teaching online, but not all of that time was spent delivering lectures and presentations. Educators also spent a large amount of time creating a new level of support for students, helping them with everything from tech issues to talking with students struggling with social isolation. 

As we all dive into planning for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, our goal as always is to help you help healthcare education students succeed. We admire the educators who are figuring this out right now, and wanted to share some of the considerations, concerns, strategies and solutions they have discussed with us as they plot their transition to a new normal.

Student Engagement Strategies: Effective Remote Learning Environments

Schools and educators are concerned about keeping students engaged in a remote learning setting. In addition, students are stressed. Their fear of a compromised learning experience and uncertainty about the potential impact on their careers can be a distraction. Supporting and engaging students has always been a priority for educators in the classroom and beyond, but what’s required is at a whole new level.

Maximizing Student Engagement Strategies with Synchronous Sessions

When your class is present in real-time, there are a few educator-recommended tips to keep the energy level up. Consider what would be acceptable or unacceptable for productive in-person learning and apply it to your online classroom.

  1. Ask students questions throughout, either in chat boxes or directly.
  2. Encourage students to have cameras on whenever they are in class.
  3. Ask students to always use real names when logging in, so you and classmates know who is who.
  4. Discourage multi-tasking.  

Some educators introduce activities to engage students, such as chat streams. Another way to keep students engaged is to frequently ask for feedback. Video chat platforms such as Zoom allow for polling, whether your class is being hosted as a  meeting or webinar. Polls can ask for feedback or allow you to provide low-stakes practice testing to help students build strong memory anchors for the material while you are teaching.

Given the problems with  high-stakes testing in an online learning environment, some educators are also favoring frequent low stakes recall quizzes as a way to benchmark the learning progress of the class. As stated by Professor Miller at  Northern Arizona University, in her May article 5 Takeaways From My Covid-19 Remote Teaching”: “For a while now, teaching experts have advised that students learn best from frequent low-stakes quizzes and other assignments — either in addition to, or in place of, traditional midterms, final exams, and term papers. These experts have also pointed out that high-stakes tests and papers are a breeding ground for academic dishonesty, and that online exams raise concerns about high-tech remote-proctoring options.”

Encouraging student input in how the class is structured will also allow you to adapt and support students with different needs and circumstances. 

Leveraging Different Learning Styles

Online learning can be more of a challenge for students with different learning styles. 

Having students who are visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners means there are parts of distance, online learning that make engagement and retention more challenging for students.

In their 2014 EdSig paper “Different Keystrokes for Different Folks: Addressing Learning Styles in Online Education”, authors Pinchot and Paullet give examples of tools and techniques that can engage students with different learning styles.

Visual Learners: To help students “see” what they are learning, in addition to using images, videos and colorful lecture slides, include mind maps and other graphical devices, or easily record lectures with screencasts.

Auditory Learners: To verbally reinforce what you are teaching, adding talking characters with tools like Voki or doing audio recordings of lectures with tools like Audacity, provide opportunities for auditory learners to review material in a way that will help the material stick.  Gen Z loves podcasts and listening to playlists on their smartphones while on the go can give any student an added opportunity for review during their busy day.

Kinesthetic Learners: Those who learn best by doing and experiencing what they are learning can benefit from online flashcards like Quizlet, or presentation tools such as Prezi.

Using integrated and interactive technology tools will help ensure those students continue to thrive in an online-learning environment. A University of Illinois article “Learning Styles & the Online Environment” provides a link to several resources, including a quiz offered by NC State that follows the Felder-Silverman model of student learning styles.  From Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences to Dunn & Dunn’s research on ideal environments for learning and Kolb, whose 1984 study specifically addresses the learning styles that are challenged by (Assimilator & Accommodator) or can benefit from (Converger & Diverger) e-learning, there is a plethora of research to help guide your approach to maximizing student engagement and retention in a distance-learning or hybrid-online scenario.

Supporting Students’ Emotional Health

In 2018, the World Health Organization found that one in three college freshmen was dealing with a mental health disorder. And that was before a global pandemic shifted our world. Keeping in contact with students, reinforcing their sense of purpose (and reminding them of yours), and fostering their trust is important to seeing them thrive and – when needed – to seek outside support. Dr. Mays Imad of the Gardner Institute, a neuroscientist who studies stress and emotions and their effect on students’ learning, explores seven ways professors can help students thrive in class in times of trauma to help educators support students during the upcoming school year. 

Financial stress, housing difficulties, health concerns, interpersonal or mental health issues have always been a challenge for students, but these situations have all been exacerbated by the current crisis. For  those who viewed graduate school as a new and exciting new chapter in their lives, building and maintaining connections has been one of the biggest challenges everyone has faced when we can’t be physically together.  Social isolation has been one of the most significant concerns that students face. Finding ways to connect with students and connect them with each other is vital, not just for success in the classroom, but for overall health. 

Many organizations have published guides to assist educators in this.  Michigan Department of Education, Sacramento County Office of Education and WestEd’s self-care guide for educators, are just a few resources that have been made available during the crisis. Educator guides such as these will continue to be valuable resources while this health crisis continues to impact schools’ ability to deliver high quality educational experiences and maximize student learning outcomes.

Educators use Picmonic to Address their Challenges

Educators have shared with us how they have used Picmonic to engage students in online learning.  From using Picmonic to develop online teaching materials to incorporating Picmonic characters into slides, Picmonic’s picture-mnemonics have helped educators transition to online teaching faster.  

All of these educators use Picmonic’s built-in quizzes to provide low-stakes retrieval practice for students either during class or after class, to increase retention or gauge learning progress. If Picmonic is integrated in their school’s LMS system, they can also easily see student progress based on Picmonic quiz performance in the Grade Book. Educators have also claimed that increasing student engagement with Picmonic has helped increase pass rates.

Picmonic supports different learning styles. Since the population is 65% visual learners and 30% auditory learners, Picmonic has most of the student population covered:. 

  • Support for visual learners: Memorable and engaging pictures that tell a story to help memorize critical facts
  • Support for auditory learners: audio tracks are provided for all Picmonics, and students can listen in continuous “play audio” mode without requiring internet access

Educators have always had to creatively engage students who don’t necessarily learn the same way. That’s never been easy, and without classroom, person-to-person engagement, some learners may be struggling more than others.  Picmonic can be a game-changer for visual learners, or those who learn best with humor and memorable characters. Picmonic is research-proven to help students retain information 331% longer.  Educators have used Picmonic’s wacky, memorable content to engage students in their classroom content for years. 

Picmonic has also reached out to students to help support their social and emotional well being, providing practical support as they transition to online learning

Moving Forward

In preparation for an unconventional fall term, higher education is stepping up in real and lasting ways for students, educators and institutions. When selecting distance education materials and distance learning resources, consider accessibility factors.

Picmonic is here for students from the day school starts and we are here for educators, too. You aren’t alone. We join you in your commitment to student success. Learn more about how Picmonic supports Educators, or email educators@ picmonic.com.

Leads the Picmonic teams that work with thousands of students and educators at schools with professional healthcare programs, to gather input and feedback and ensure Picmonic helps students achieve their educational goals. A lifelong champion for innovative education with a passion for using technology to deliver innovative educational experiences. Hails from a family of medical professionals dedicated to serving the public, some of whom are already working on the front lines during the current world health crisis.
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