Knowing the Barriers to Student Engagement During Distance Learning

Education Technology Insights | Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Engaging students during distance learning may be complex, but it is possible with advanced technologies.

FREMONT, CA: School looks different during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some students are thriving with this means of learning, several students don’t seem to be engaging in that process. Some students may not be present, others may be in attendance, but they aren’t doing more than the bare minimum. Students who are genuinely engaged persevere despite problems. Engaged students are attentive and curious. They find meaning in what they are learning, whether their classroom is brick-and-mortar or virtual. Here are some possible barriers to student engagement during distance learning and ways educators can help.

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Students may not have an internet connection or a device to use. Some students will not be available to meet at current times. Others may have a lot going on in the background they are trying to block out or even hide from the rest. In the classroom, when educators work with the students in person every day, students can get a sense of who may be going through something complex at home. Educators can privately check-in to see how things are going. It’s complicated to have those one-on-one conversations during distance learning, specifically with students who are not engaged.

Stress and trauma can interrupt cognitive processing, mitigate students’ executive functioning skills, and change emotional regulation. All of that makes it complex to learn, think, and engage meaningfully.  Between anxiety about the coronavirus pandemic and uproar over racial injustice, many students are facing emotional challenges. And they may not have the assistance system or coping skills to handle them. Making sure that content is accessible can be a significant challenge. If students aren’t comfortable with the system the educator is using, they might avoid it. It takes time to establish norms with a new system — especially when it involves technology.  Many students depend on the structure and help of in-person school to help them stay on track with assignments. Distance learning means students require being more independent and responsible for their learning.

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