In our work with districts during the shift to school closures this past spring, we heard from countless district leaders and school administrators about how challenging it was to promote connectedness and build student engagement outside of the traditional classroom.
Fast-forward six months to the start of the 2020-21 academic year and it is clear that designing international and effective learning experiences that foster active learning amidst a pandemic requires much more than simply giving every teacher a Zoom account.
Online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic presents a plethora of new challenges in comparison to the traditional classroom in-person model of pedagogy. Online teaching and developing engaging, developmentally-appropriate, standards-aligned coursework requires a deliberate and thoughtful approach to blended learning, especially when normal structures such as office hours and in-person student interactions are limited in most districts.
It is similarly concerning to consider how the challenges associated with online learning may have the largest impact on at-risk students. Research suggests that struggling students often have the most difficulty in terms of academic achievement and engagement when course content is shifted to online discussion posts and in-person small group instruction is removed.
To achieve the same level of student engagement in online courses as educators typically produce in face-to-face learning environments, district leaders must work to understand how students, caregivers and staff are perceiving their current context. Do our students feel frustrated and isolated? Are they supported in their coursework and connecting socially with classmates via group work or discussion forums? Do teachers feel equipped to support students through synchronous and asynchronous facilitation? Are families comfortable with the current learning model – whether it be fully online education or a hybrid one – and are they confident in the educational experience for their online learners?
Consider administering a back-to-school survey or social-emotional learning assessment during the first several months of the 2020-21 school year. The survey can help your district gather student, family, and staff feedback on the learning environment (whether online learning, in-person learning, or hybrid learning); COVID-related health and safety procedures; professional development needs; social support systems; student academic needs; school cultural responsiveness; student engagement in remote learning; and school leadership and communication. With the data, you can identify how to better serve your students, families, and staff to intentionally focus on improving the learning process for online students, increasing student engagement and cultivating a strong sense of belonging.
Below are 45 questions to ask students, families, teachers, and staff to understand student engagement in online learning. Please note that these questions are pulled from our full back-to-school survey instrument as well as our social-emotional learning survey. You can download the complete instruments as PDFs below to access all of the topics, questions, and response anchors.
45 Questions to Understand Student Engagement in Online Learning
For Students (Grades 3-5 and 6-12):
1. How excited are you about going to your classes?
2. How often do you get so focused on activities in your classes that you lose track of time?
3. In your classes, how eager are you to participate?
4. When you are not in school, how often do you talk about ideas from your classes?
5. Overall, how interested are you in your classes?
6. What are the most engaging activities that happen in this class?
7. Which aspects of class have you found least engaging?
8. If you were teaching class, what is the one thing you would do to make it more engaging for all students?
9. How do you know when you are feeling engaged in class?
10. What projects/assignments/activities do you find most engaging in this class?
11. What does this teacher do to make this class engaging?
12. How much effort are you putting into your classes right now?
13. How difficult or easy is it for you to try hard on your schoolwork right now?
14. How difficult or easy is it for you to stay focused on your schoolwork right now?
15. If you have missed in-person school recently, why did you miss school?
16. If you have missed online classes recently, why did you miss class?
17. How would you like to be learning right now?
18. How happy are you with the amount of time you spend speaking with your teacher?
19. How difficult or easy is it to use the distance learning technology (computer, tablet, video calls, learning applications, etc.)?
20. What do you like about school right now?
21. What do you not like about school right now?
22. When you have online schoolwork, how often do you have the technology (laptop, tablet, computer, etc) you need?
23. How difficult or easy is it for you to connect to the internet to access your schoolwork?
24. What has been the hardest part about completing your schoolwork?
25. How happy are you with how much time you spend in specials or enrichment (art, music, PE, etc.)?
26. Are you getting all the help you need with your schoolwork right now?
27. How sure are you that you can do well in school right now?
28. Are there adults at your school you can go to for help if you need it right now?
29. If you are participating in distance learning, how often do you hear from your teachers individually?
For Families, Parents, and Caregivers:
1. How satisfied are you with the way learning is structured at your child’s school right now?
2. Do you think your child should spend less or more time learning in person at school right now?
3. How difficult or easy is it for your child to use the distance learning tools (video calls, learning applications, etc.)?
4. How confident are you in your ability to support your child's education during distance learning?
5. How confident are you that teachers can motivate students to learn in the current model?
6. What is working well with your child’s education that you would like to see continued?
7. What is challenging with your child’s education that you would like to see improved?
8. Does your child have their own tablet, laptop, or computer available for schoolwork when they need it?
9. What best describes your child's typical internet access?
10. Is there anything else you would like us to know about your family’s needs at this time?
For Teachers and Staff:
1. In the past week, how many of your students regularly participated in your virtual classes?
2. In the past week, how engaged have students been in your virtual classes?
3. In the past week, how engaged have students been in your in-person classes?
4. Is there anything else you would like to share about student engagement at this time?
5. What is working well with the current learning model that you would like to see continued
6. What is challenging about the current learning model that you would like to see improved?
Elevate Student, Family, and Staff Voices This Year With Panorama
Schools and districts can use Panorama’s leading survey administration and analytics platform to quickly gather and take action on information from students, families, teachers, and staff. The questions are applicable to all types of K-12 school settings and grade levels, as well as to communities serving students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
In the Panorama platform, educators can view and disaggregate results by topic, question, demographic group, grade level, school, and more to inform priority areas and action plans. Districts using the Back-to-School Surveys may use the data to improve teaching and learning models, build stronger academic and social-emotional support systems, improve stakeholder communication, and inform staff professional development.