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Texans Can Academies offers tips on keeping students engaged online

Texans Can Academies offers tips on keeping students engaged online

April 13, 2020

(Source Houston Chronicle)

Most community health workers start their careers in their mid-20s. Texans Can Academies, a network of 14 high school dropout prevention schools, are helping seniors achieve their health worker certification before they graduate.

Through a partnership with Baylor Scott & White, a nonprofit healthcare system, fourteen students enrolled in the program and meet twice a week to complete 160 hours of coursework. The program allows students to explore an area of healthcare they may not have previously been aware of and learn of opportunities available to them with the certification.

But due to COVID-19, those students are left to motivate themselves at home, completing the coursework online with Chromebooks and internet hotspots provided by Texans Can Academies. A lot of them are at-risk students.

Licensed Professional Counselor and Community Health Worker Instructor Cindy Davis is tasked with teaching the students online and offers tips on how to keep both at-risk and non-at-risk students engaged with their online assignments.

Make Learning Social
One of the ways to keep students engaged online is to make learning a social situation. According to Davis, most students today are constantly engaged with social media. If instructors carry that social aspect with them in their instruction, it can be easier for students to engage with the material.

“You have to create assignments that cause the students to be able to talk to each other while they’re at home because they’re going to do that anyway,” said Davis. “From Facebook to Instagram and all the ways students use to communicate with each other, I would use those things to help them learn.”

Add self-assessment opportunities
Davis believes a positive student-teacher relationship is crucial for success. When students’ classes are transferred from in-person to online, the relationship with their teacher is subsequently transferred online.

If a student feels comfortable enough with the teacher to talk about the problems they are facing at home, according to Davis, the student will feel more comfortable engaging with the course.

“Allow the students to vent,” said Davis. “These kids are stuck in the house and stuff they probably wouldn’t see every day they are now seeing.”

Communicate in multiple formats
According to Davis, teachers are now being called to a higher responsibility due to COVID-19. Because teaching online works through a different medium, the traditional lecture format may prove difficult to keep students engaged.

“You’re going to have to come up with videos and games that will contribute to the particular subject matter you’re trying to get at,” said Davis. “You’re going to have to get really creative.”

Connect what you’re teaching to real life
Normally, the younger generations don’t learn through traditional formats, according to Davis. When students are asked to present something in front of the class, they usually look scared or broken. When students can relate to the learning material, their interest skyrockets.

“For me, I really don’t see anybody in the classroom being able to relate to anything that is not broken down from a real-life standpoint,” said Davis. “If I say, in my health workers class, let’s talk about diabetes and the effects of diabetes, I stop and say okay now let’s talk about somebody in your house that may have had diabetes.”

Hook students’ interest
Davis recommends teachers utilize fun icebreakers that will allow students to easily transition from the classroom to online in a relaxed environment that doesn’t put too much pressure and stress on the student while they are home.

“You can’t just sit there and lecture the whole time and expect everybody to get off the computer and do their homework,” said Davis. “We do an icebreaker that causes people to laugh then we come back and put the icing on the cake. For homework, I always do something very simple and not too taxing because kids are not going to do it otherwise. If they’re at home, the area is very relaxed and it doesn’t constitute any kind of instruction, especially with at-risk students.”


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