Although education has continued online after the outbreak of COVID-19, the student-to-student connections have halted. Face-to-face interactions no longer takes place in the classroom, but on screen, which is an entirely unique experience.
“They chat before and after class, they participate in group discussions and lab experiments, and they build relationships through study groups and other course-related interactions. In the online classroom, however, the loss of student-to-student proximity means that instructors must explicitly include design elements that foster meaningful student interactions.” - Illinois CITL
Online courses eliminate social interactions made before, during and after a class; waiting by the door, asking questions during class, talking to peers at break, etc.
Now, students are isolated at home, with limited social interaction.
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Through online courses, the teacher is providing the interaction, but students are listening, unable to talk to the other students on screen or at least are very limited in doing so during lecture.
Social relationships are crucial for psychological development and physical health of any human. Social support is effective in decreasing depression, boosting self-esteem and easing stress during school.
It may be hard to encourage student-to-student interaction during a video lecture, but what about other extracurricular groups? Here are some school event ideas for online engagement and social activities students can take part in.
1. Online book clubs
For extra credit, teachers can assign a book or one voted by students, with reading goals each week. Then weekly or monthly, host a virtual book club allowing students to discuss their thoughts on the book with a teacher monitoring the chat.
For your book enthusiasts, they not only get the benefit of extra credit while incorporating their passion for reading, but the ability to bond with other students and participate in active discussions online.
Especially for new classrooms, icebreakers are a brilliant strategy for introducing one another and finding connections with other students alike. We commonly see icebreakers in the following forms:
- Quick introductions, sharing hobbies, interests or fun facts about themself
- Virtual games depending on the platform you’re using
- Trivia about your classmates
- Quick questions
Icebreakers not only help the teacher learn about their students, but the students can form connections based on common interests with others in the classroom.
3. Study groups
This depends on the subject and assignments, but study groups are always a splendid idea whether that’s in-person or done virtually.
According to Florida National University, thanks to social media and the technology today, students are more connected online, making online study groups a brilliant solution for further learning and building relationships.
Students that participate in study groups often show improved grades, a better understanding of the subject, gain team experience, and more motivation to do well on their tests and/or assignments.
Teachers can either encourage or require students to form study groups online.
Providing an area to sign up, scheduling chat times and objectives for each meetup should help guide students on the path efficient studying with their peers.
Another social activity enabling student-to-student relationships.
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Online registrations, student t-shirts,
4. Virtual field trips
If you can’t go in-person, attend virtually!
We aren’t talking about VR, as that can isolate someone from real human connections. No, we mean conducting a field trip online as a lecture or extra credit activity. Students can join teachers on video calls and experience a field trip conducted from home.
How would this work?
There are platforms out there for conducting virtual field trips, believe it or not:
- Google Expeditions - uses virtual and augmented reality
- 360 Cities - panoramic videos and images
- Google street view - Google maps for viewing streets and areas up close
- FieldTripZoom - live streaming virtual events
- National and State Park Virtual Tours
At the end of the tour, review with students in the form of a game that encourages them to work together. You can also travel with another class and create an even bigger space for learning like you would for in-person trips.
5. Film festivals
Sometimes we just need someone to watch a movie with. Film festivals can connect people without even saying a word. Watching a movie with someone is a completely different experience than watching one alone.
Take a day to have your class watch a film together and discuss their thoughts after. You can even use a platform that enables online chats or comments so students can discuss their thoughts during the film without interrupting others.
6. Arts and Crafts from home
Do you have any holidays coming up? Mother’s day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas; days that could use a little added touch or homemade cards?
Of course, this is recommended for younger grades, but even as an adult, arts and crafts are loved just as much! Whatever you’re making, prep students on what they’ll need before starting the project and video stream.
Once live and conducting class, students can work on their crafts while talking to other classmates, discussing holiday plans and showcasing their finished projects!
7. Tutoring programs and mentors
Although this might not be a fun activity, it’s a social one. For students that need the extra help, providing tutoring and mentor programs can be essential.
Students used to after school in-person help now face the dilemma of limited aid or working with parents unsure of their studies. These programs don’t have to dissolve completely, rather should be offered online where students can sign up for time slots with different volunteers and tutors.
8. Social media groups and pages
60% of teens and children have a social media site and 71% say they visit their social site at least weekly. Why not take advantage of a platform most of your students are on when creating social activities?
Facebook is the most popular social site for forming groups, chats and pages.
Although it’s not face-to-face, forming a chat group online with the ability to post, share or comment can be used as discussion groups for classes or a project.
For example, each day teachers can assign their students to respond to a question in their homework and post it to the Facebook group. They can also require each student to comment on at least three posts with feedback or questions. This also works with student blogs or websites, where teachers can assign them to post an article on a topic and have other students respond in the comments section or grade their work as a peer-review assignment.
There are a lot of students event ideas that can be conducted online; this pandemic has just forced us to get a little more creative! The social interaction between students is crucial for their development and mental health. It’s up to parents and teachers to find unorthodox ways for getting their students more involved with the online classroom.
Using these tips is a superb place to start!