In a year that has been so different from the norm, it is important to consider the effects online learning has had on the pupils participating. Where pupils are unable to connect and interact with their teacher and peers in the traditional way, within the classroom, online learning has posed some interesting issues of engagement and mental health. Moore (1993) explains that ‘interaction, as suggested by educational research, is one of the most important components of teaching and learning experiences’, however dialogue between pupils and teachers ‘in distance education it presents a challenge’ (McBrien, et al. 2009, p3). In order to connect with pupils, it was discussed that weekly live check-in sessions could take place. This would allow teachers an opportunity to interact with pupils and support their health and wellbeing through conversations and games. McBrien et al. (2009, p1) also highlights that ‘improved teaching and learning strategies are needed to provide students not only the convenience of distance education but also the kind of access to real-time interaction with the instructor and class peers that simulates the traditional classroom setting’. Home circumstances are a huge factor in participation in online learning, as many pupils complete assignments outside of typical schooling hours. Additionally, availability of technologies is another factor affecting online learning. In order to effectively evaluate the effects of online social interaction on pupil engagement, a range quantitative and qualitative data must be collected and considered, and conclusions drawn.
After discussions about our interests within education, the group decided on the area of focus and aim of our practitioner enquiry. We understood the importance of basing this enquiry around online learning due to this method being catapulted to the forefront of learning as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns. The aim of this enquiry was to investigate the effects of pupil engagement in online learning when an opportunity for social interaction was present.