How To Encourage Engagement, Collaboration, and Productivity in Online Learning


The highly fluctuating learning environment caused by the pandemic can be difficult for kids who thrive under stability. Being at home presents challenges with distractions and the difficulty of separating learning time from play and quiet time, as well as Zoom fatigue.

As we move from the classroom to the living room, there are a few tips and tricks educators can use to keep kids engaged and on-track, while also providing visual and collaborative learning environments that cater to a wide range of learning styles. The goal is to make online learning engaging and stimulating for kids. Instead of trying to replicate what we would normally do in a classroom setting, we need to adjust our teaching and learning styles to this new environment.

Leveraging Technology

Technology can be a powerful tool to engage students, when used correctly. Many kids spend their time glued to their devices, so there’s an opportunity to use that to your advantage. These tools are right there on their devices, ready to help them.

Depending on the subject, there are quite a few free apps that encourage independent learning and learning outside of school hours. Duolingo is a great tool to help students practise language skills through fun and interactive games. Scratch is another resource that allows students to create their own interactive stories, to help them think creatively and work collaboratively, and includes a focus on coding. The Maple Calculator is a fantastic math tool for visual learners, as it allows students to solve problems, check homework, and explore graphs in 3D view.

It’s hard for students to sit in front of a computer all day, and app-based learning tools allow them to switch things up and learn interactively on their devices. Some learning apps also come with a code that allows teachers to see the progress and results of a student in real-time. If apps aren’t a fit for you and your students, there are a lot of great channels on YouTube that you can tap into. Sometimes all it takes is having someone else explain the same topic in a different way.

Encouraging Collaboration

Classroom collaboration is important to encourage idea-sharing among students, but it can be difficult as an educator to recreate this scenario online. However, there are resources that encourage digital collaboration, such as breakout rooms or the chat function on Zoom. It can be tough for one teacher to monitor everything going on at once, so try having a student volunteer to monitor the chat. This will allow students to engage while you stay on track. Students and teachers can also take advantage of dynamic online learning environments like Maple Learn, where students can work out problems line by line like they would in a notebook, check individual steps, and share with their peers or teachers.

Throwing Out the Rule Book

In circumstances as unique as these, we often want to hold on to what is familiar, in an effort to make things feel “normal.” The problem is, what works well in the classroom doesn’t necessarily translate to online learning. Kids (and adults, for that matter) are much more easily distracted when interacting online vs. in-person. With that in mind, long lesson plans with few breaks will be less effective over Zoom. Instead, try breaking up lessons into smaller, bite-sized “bursts” of learning, broken up by frequent breaks and chances for interaction.

While some students thrive in online learning environments, for others it can be quite challenging. To cater to different learning styles, consider offering lessons through a variety of mediums, for example, a combination of written documentation and videos for visual learners. Making videos yourself can seem intimidating, but perfection is not what students need right now. The video does not need to be perfect for the student to learn, and it will actually make it more relatable if it’s not.

Finally, having online office hours can be a great resource for students to continue to get one-on-one time with you and to seek additional help if needed.

Teachers have one of the toughest jobs in normal circumstances, and during this extremely uncertain time, you have been forced to quickly develop an entirely new way of teaching. While we often think of tech as being a distraction, leaning in to the online tools available can help students to learn interactively, stay engaged, and stay focused.
To learn more about resources that can support with online learning, visit


Laurent Bernardin
Laurent Bernardin is CEO of Maplesoft, a company that creates mathematics-based software and services for education, engineering and research.

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s online article offerings for Winter 2021

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