The Science Behind Engaging Participants

Learn how to engage students and increase participation in a virtual setting.
min read

When it comes to teaching kids, keeping them engaged regardless of their age is a priority. If children aren’t engaged, they aren’t learning. Add virtual learning to the equation and engagement becomes even more difficult to maintain. What does an educator or instructor have to do to ensure students continue to learning while safely in their own homes? Create an online community for participants. By creating a welcoming space, you are able to help with:

  • Investment and motivation
  • Discussions with peers
  • Successful learning
  • Engagement

By doing this you can easily and authentically connect individuals by sharing trials, tribulations, successes and failures. Through that authenticity and vulnerability, you can help create a sense of belonging by giving participants the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people.

For example, students are 16 times more likely to complete a course when there is an online community. That online community starts with you. 

Engage With Students Online Through Feedback

It’s crucial to the development of children to provide both positive and constructive feedback. Through this feedback you’ll be able to break the feeling of isolation that may come from learning home, improve recognition and confidence, create a sense of progress and have deeper discussions about the issue or subject at hand that could lead to a better understanding overall. Feedback opens up the door to establish a connection with your students and foster a space where they can feel heard, safe and comfortable enough to express themselves in a productive way. 

Ways to Offer Feedback

Detailed Explanations

  • Create in-depth assessments
  • Define a step-by-step plan for improvements
  • Use concrete examples: provide structure, personal attention and feedback or establish a buddy system among students to do the same

Be Personal

  • Be timely with feedback: ensure topics remain top-of-mind and relevant with feedback that is timely, personal and helpful
  • Get students talking: ask open-ended questions, pause and give them space to talk, don’t try to fix their issue but rather let them come to the resolution on their own through thoughtful feedback
  • Use video chats
  • Give them praise when they do well
  • Be a role model

Content & Teaching Best Practices

Bite-Sized Modules

The average attention span of a student is about 10 minutes, and when learning takes place online, you have to be able to maintain that attention and engagement while competing with other factors that the Internet and learning from home can bring. 

One of the best ways to cater to the short attention span of online learners is to create brief content pieces using various formats to maintain their interest and attention. Microlearning is an extremely powerful tool that produces great results. It allows students to feel a sense of accomplishment and allows them to focus on one thing at a time without distraction.

If an instructor can get a piece of information, knowledge and action to students in under two to five minutes, the results will increase dramatically when it comes to attention, engagement and retention. While it can be difficult to make a lesson this concise, it will be much more powerful if attained. Keeping lessons short, sweet and to the point will drive results.

You can utilize the following bite-sized mediums to help maintain students’ engagement and attention:

  • Videos
  • Voiceover slides
  • Text
  • Panel discussions

Lesson Content

When it comes to the actual content of your online lessons, it’s advantageous to include the following to gain attention, engagement and retention, as well as continue to maintain the community:

  • Solve detailed problems
  • Short lesson essays
  • Opinion assignments
  • Ask thought-provoking questions
  • Ignite conversations 

A good tip for online instruction is to ask open-ended questions that require a higher level of reflection. Have students refer back to the content on their answers, which presents another great opportunity to revisit lesson material.

Maintain a Presence

It can be easy for both students and teachers to go on autopilot when doing online instruction. However, if you want to boost engagement and create a sense of community, you must remain present. Help and encourage your students often, communicate with absentees so they know they’re missed, understand what lessons were taught in their absence and learn how they can catch up. 

Action-Feedback-Trigger Model

Through the action-feedback-trigger model, students receive real, engaged learning through action-based strategies. This model helps solve problems associated with online learning, and when used correctly, it can increase engagement and completion rates. The momentum students create by going through this loop builds more inertia that propels them toward success.

The AFT model is made up of three factors:


The first step of an effective learning experience is to make sure learners take action. It’s one thing to deliver lessons through video or written content, but when action is involved, students can experience what they learned and are able to retain that knowledge better. Experiential learning is incredibly effective and helps establish lasting behavior change. 

Transform static content into exciting activities through:

  • Replacing passive learning with ‘actions’: Utilize the five sense. If a student can experience it, it’s an action.
  • Learn and execute: Teach your students through bite sized modules, have them put their learning into practice and then praise them for a job well done. Students will gain knowledge by doing, and continue to engage when praised for their good work.
  • Shared learning journey
  • Turn activities into habits with long-term results


It’s crucial to give students feedback and let them know how they’re doing. It shows students that they don’t have to do things on their own. A good way to start the feedback conversation is to ask a reflection question such as, “How did it go?” While you’re giving your students feedback, make sure to:

  • Give praise for doing well
  • Suggest areas for improvement
  • Provide students confidence and motivation through your feedback
  • Encourage repeat habits 


After giving feedback, trigger students to complete the next action. Triggers must be related to the students’ learning experience and relevant to what they’re learning and going through. Keep them engaged throughout the learning process by:

  • Planning the next set of actions
  • Sending reminders
  • Keeping track of incomplete tasks
  • Attaining user feedback

Remember to set up automated messages to send to students to remind them of upcoming assignments or develop habits through reoccurring daily/weekly tasks.

ACITVE Camp & Class Manager Sets Your Organization up for Success

ACTIVE can help you make 2021 your best year yet! At ACTIVE Network, we help class administrators gain interest and connect with their audience using online class registration and management softwareConnect with us today for more information on our powerful online class management software—and how you can use these tools to engage your customers, streamline operations and maximize class participation to support your revenue goals. 

ACTIVE + myQuest Delivers Real, Engaged Learning

Through the ACTIVE + myQuest partnership, your organization can deliver an active learning environment that leads to high completion rates, long-term knowledge retention and effective skill development that is backed by science. 

Reach out now to take your organization to the next level with action-based learning that keeps your participants engaged while increasing knowledge retention and program completion. 

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Jessica Harp
Marketing Specialist, B2B
March 11, 2021
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