Defining the Problem
The effectiveness of online learning primarily depends on the level of student engagement, and a lack thereof is detrimental to the overall process. The 21st century offers a variety of technological advancements, which may significantly improve the process of learning if implemented correctly. The concept of online learning is widely examined and implemented nowadays, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Paulsen and McCormick (2020) say that this segment of education shows the fastest growth rate in the United States. Ideally, a high level of student engagement is guaranteed through their motivation to learn and willingness to follow their teachers’ instructions, positively contributing to the learning outcome (Gray & DiLoreto, 2016). On the other hand, Kahn et al. (2017) state that student engagement in the online learning environment has been suboptimal, according to their research. Moreover, the degree of retention following such studies is reported to be lower compared to more traditional forms of education. Therefore, the potential of online learning is not fully utilized today, and the lack of student engagement is one of the factors contributing to the development of this tendency.
Diagnosing the Factors that contribute to the problem
Overall, there are several aspects that prevent student engagement in online activities from reaching optimal levels. First of all, online learning commitment might be less of a priority for students due to its particularities (Kahn et al., 2017). Indeed, when a student is not present in the classroom, they are more likely to engage in other activities. As a result, their level of attention toward the learning process may decrease and impede the process. It is generally known that studying, especially at the level of elementary and middle schools, is a process of paramount importance, forming the individual’s personal and professional competencies. Nevertheless, students usually experience online learning in their homes. As a result, a familiar environment where other important or interesting tasks exist may distract them and lower their engagement with the process.
Secondly, elementary and middle school students may demonstrate lower engagement levels if modern technological capabilities of online learning are not fully utilized. Combs (2020) highlight the importance of diverse learning methods and materials in online education, which serve to promote students’ creativity and interest. In the case of online studies, students and teachers are not present in the same room at a particular time. In other words, there is a lack of direct personal interaction, which limits teachers’ capabilities in terms of non-verbal communication. Combs (2020) refers to discussion boards, polls, and multimedia formats as valuable instruments for enhancing student engagement. Nevertheless, some teachers continue working in the same manner as before. Traditional methods of student engagement used in conventional learning do not always prove as useful in the electronic environment.
Finally, online learning often entails a particular level of isolation, which is not present in the case of conventional classroom schooling. According to Martin and Bolliger (2018), while learners’ interaction with the instructors remains limited in this scenario, learner-to-learner communication is virtually non-existent. Socializing is an important component of education, and it is particularly crucial in elementary and middle schools, where children acquire a basic understanding of social interaction. An online learning environment, as it is, offers few opportunities for students in this respect, leading to a sense of isolation and boredom, which negatively affects their engagement with the process (Martin & Bolliger, 2018). Conventional schools promote healthy competition among students as a way of motivating them to excel in their studies.
Definitions of Key Terms
Student engagement: The amount of effort, attention, and commitment demonstrated by students throughout their learning process (Kahn et al., 2017).
Combs, A. C. (2020). Success plan for the online learning experience: Student engagement, teacher accessibility, & relationships. Middle Grades Review, 6(2), 1-5.
Gray, J. A., & DiLoreto, M. (2016). The effects of student engagement, student satisfaction, and perceived learning in online learning environments. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 11(1).
Kahn, P., Everington, L., Kelm, K., Reid, I., & Watkins, F. (2017). Understanding student engagement in online learning environments: The role of reflexivity. Educational Technology Research and Development, 65, 203–218. Web.
Martin, F., & Bolliger, D. U. (2018). Engagement matters: Student perceptions on the importance of engagement strategies in the online learning environment. Online Learning, 22(1), 205-222. Web.
Paulsen, J., & McCormick, A. C. (2020). Reassessing disparities in online learner student engagement in higher education. Educational Researcher, 49(1), 20-29. Web.