To what extent do informal drop-in sessions help to improve student engagement across digital learning?
Social interaction between students is highly encouraged and safeguarded in ordinary school environments as it has been established that social dynamics can establish a productive and nurturing learning environment in the classroom (Swan, 2002). Digital learning has taken over the greater part of the winter term, and it is, as it stands, a somewhat uncharted territory in the education field. As it emerged from various discussions within this group and the rest of the teaching staff, students’ engagement, which is one of the most important aspects of digital learning, had been plummeting since the beginning of lockdown.
Furthermore, chances of pupil feedback on teaching practices that are new and foreign to may of us have been non-existent, which creates a barrier between teachers and learners; by enticing students to engage outside of their timetable duties, we are offered a chance of tweaking the work we have been doing by simply listening to their comments and idea, which is at the core of a successful teaching practice but that, in times like these, is much harder to obtain.
As proven in the study carried out in 2011 by Kolloff, student-to-student interaction is vital to constructing a productive online learning environment and maintaining the students’ progress on track. Although this study was conducted on purely digital courses and it include an academic situation far from what our students have been experiencing over the past year, these findings have informed our enquiry and posed the base for our question.
Online school is not a nuisance in the academic world and some affine research has been conducted on how to build and sustain student engagement and motivation through social interactions, all linked to Moore’s study (1989) which defines the three types of interactions needed for effective teaching: learner-content, learner-instructor and learner-learner. Each of these has to be contemplated when delivering digital learning and, so far, learner-learner interactions were the most neglected. It has to be considered, however, that hinders to digital learning are many, the most important of which is the accessibility of the material and availability of the teachers.
The purpose of this enquiry was to improve students’ motivation and engagement with the assigned work while also providing a safe space in which the pupils could interact in a classroom-like environment.