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Deepening student engagement in online discussions in 7 simple steps

This whole transition from physical to online classes is all cool until you realize that your students aren’t as hooked onto your lessons as they would’ve been in a physical class. This is mainly because of factors like;

  • Having distractions on their phones/ computers
  • Distractions around the location where they’re having their lesson from
  • Bad internet connection
  • Some students just don’t take online classes seriously

For these and more reasons, many students are not deeply engaged in these online discussions as they should have been. But what can we do to change this? Here are some smart ways that you can increase their engagement.

1. Add attachments

While in online discussions, you have to back up your every fact with sources where students can look to get extra facts – mainly because the web is like a maze and students will struggle to find what they need. Therefore, you can attach things like;

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Audios
  • Links

Providing these attachments is the best way to simplify things for students, thereby deepening their engagement in online discussions, because the key is in simplicity.

2. Read All the Posts

Something you might not know is how much people in this generation want recognition, even for the slightest contribution. Therefore you have to take the time and read all the posts that students have submitted because;

  • You’ll find out what the students do and don’t know
  • It allows you to correct all the errors of your students

Even though sometimes you might be tired or not ready to read some of the students’ posts, it’s the pill you have to swallow.

3. Respond to Students

In addition to reading all that the students have submitted, you have to respond so they can know you’ve seen their post. Most preferably, respond with a question, affirmation or feedback.

One of the things that keep students hooked onto physical lessons is the way you respond to students and make them feel more lively.

4. Ask questions that require them to think

In order for your students to engage in an online discussion, you have to ask them questions that force them to unlock their brain power and submit ideas to contribute to the lesson.

Without questions, students have no incentive to participate in online discussions without being forced in any way.

5. Re-frame the hard questions

Much as students love to be challenged, a very difficult question will only make your students feel discouraged to participate – for fear of looking stupid or backward.

Therefore, you should always ask students whether they understand what you’ve asked them, so you can rephrase if they haven’t.

6. Be mindful of your online tone

The way you talk to your students in an online discussion does a lot to determine how they’ll engage. This is because in an online discussion, students are more free to detach from everything or just stay around as ghosts, therefore your tone shouldn’t be;

  • Judgmental
  • Excessively critical
  • Mocking
  • Disrespectful of certain students

Once your students feel demoralized, they’ll pull out of your discussions and soon enough, you’ll remain with a quarter of the class as active students.

7. Ask students for their reviews

Discussions are almost like an online business where you have to keep asking users how they feel about a product. As well, you have to ask students so you can find out things like;

  • How they feel about the discussion so far
  • Whether it should keep going on like that
  • What should be done to improve the quality of the discussion

When students give you their honest opinion on how the lesson is going, it will enable you to create the best quality discussion sessions for your students.


I believe that despite the teacher’s efforts there are certain things that you just can’t control, like the student’s interest in the ongoing discussion or lesson. This is exactly why you should play your part and don’t be frustrated by the number of students that will refuse to yield.

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