Throughout much of 2020 and beyond, online learning became the norm in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most schools across the country are back to in-person instruction, there are still some facilities, teachers, and students that prefer a completely remote or hybrid model.
There are plenty of benefits to online learning for students. It tends to increase computer and Internet proficiency, encourages engagement, and can work for a variety of learning styles.
However, not every child is comfortable or confident in an online setting. Maybe they’re naturally shy, or maybe they’re nervous about seeing themselves on a screen and participating. As an educator, it’s important to draw out the confidence of your students, even if it’s through a computer screen. Let’s cover a few strategies you can use to boost your student’s confidence in the online classroom, and make the learning experience more enjoyable for them.
1. Understand Why You Need to Boost Student Confidence
Before you start trying different tactics to build self-esteem in your students, it’s important to understand why they might be struggling in the first place. Some students might be dealing with disruptive home lives, or circumstances that make it difficult to stay engaged. Others might feel isolated and have a hard time opening up to a virtual classroom.
Some students might struggle with accessibility. One of the biggest problems students in certain communities face is accessibility. A recent report found that 63% of young people aged 15-24 don’t have internet access at home. If those students have to go somewhere else each day simply to attend class, it can take a toll on their well-being.
Of course, every student is different. Take the time to get to know your class, including a bit of their background information, if possible. Having a clear understanding of why a particular student might be struggling with their confidence offers you a starting point to give them the help they need.
2. Create an Optimized Learning Space
One of the best things you can do to boost student confidence and improve the overall virtual learning experience is to create an online classroom that makes everyone feel comfortable and inspired.
If you were holding class in person, you would undoubtedly decorate your classroom in a way to keep your students engaged. An online learning environment shouldn’t be any different. Consider the following tips as you optimize your virtual learning space:
- Don’t use distracting or cluttered backgrounds
- Set boundaries with your students
- Limit apps they have access to while in the classroom
- Encourage breaks for standing and stretching
When your students feel like they’re in a safe, comfortable learning space, they’re more likely to open up. All it takes is one positive experience for their confidence and self-esteem to grow. Get creative with your classroom decor and routine, and you’ll quickly build the trust required to help your students feel more confident in themselves.
3. Help Them Manage Anxiety
As a society, we often consider stress and anxiety to be things adults have to deal with. Unfortunately, children are just as susceptible to stress and might not know how to handle it as well.
If you’re concerned about one of your students and believe anxiety could be a reason they lack confidence, consider implementing stress management techniques into your daily class routine. You can incorporate some of these techniques while also encouraging your students to use all of their senses. Try things like showing them relaxing photos, playing soothing sounds or music during “quiet” time, or encouraging them to take a few deep breaths when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
When a student feels anxious or overly stressed, they’re less likely to have the confidence to speak up. They might even be too distracted by their anxious thoughts to participate and engage with the class. If you start to notice a pattern in any of your students, try implementing these techniques. Even for students who aren’t feeling anxious, these ideas can help to promote an environment of relaxation and openness. Encourage them to use some of the skills in their free time, too, and consider talking to their parents about what they can do to help their children manage anxiety outside of school.
4. Inspire Social Connection
Humans, in general, have a deeply-rooted desire to feel connected to others. When you have students in a virtual setting, they’re missing out on that in-person connection. While most virtual classrooms allow students to utilize their cameras and see everyone’s faces, it’s not the same as interacting in person. That can cause some kids and teens to feel self-conscious and they might lack the confidence to speak up in class.
You can inspire social connection virtually by implementing different engagement strategies to make everyone more comfortable. Try things like:
- Daily icebreakers before your lesson starts
- Voting/polling functions
- Breakout rooms where students can work together in small groups
The more comfortable your students are engaging with others, the more confident and connected they’ll be in class. Encourage them to connect outside of the virtual classroom, too! Nowadays, it’s easy for kids and teens to interact, even if they live miles apart.
5. Offer Praise and Recognition
Who doesn’t love getting a pat on the back for a job well done – even if it’s virtually? A great way to boost a student’s confidence is to let them know you see the effort they’re putting in. By offering praise and recognition when it’s due, you’ll improve their self-esteem and encourage them to keep doing their best.
As a teacher, you undoubtedly keep track of every student’s progress already. Using a digital tracking system is an easy way to see how well a student is doing and how much they’re growing throughout the year. When you notice a significant improvement, don’t be afraid to tell that student. It will motivate them to continue their hard work, and it can help to bring them out of their shell.
Teaching in an online classroom comes with plenty of benefits, but there are also some challenges you’ll have to deal with as an educator. Boosting student confidence might be difficult, at first, but if you find effective ways to increase engagement and keep your students connected, you can improve everyone’s self-esteem and foster a virtual learning environment that inspires and excites your whole class.