[Personalized Learning] 3 Student Engagement Features to Look for in an Online Program

[Personalized Learning] 3 Student Engagement Features to Look for in an Online Program

Effective personalized learning is all about finding a delicate balance between offering students choice in how, when, and what pace they learn, while simultaneously providing them with the individualized attention needed to truly push them forward academically. For instructors in the classroom, providing this kind of tailored experience for 20 or more students is a challenging (and at times overwhelming) undertaking. Online tools can be a valuable resource to save teachers precious time by taking care of some of the legwork of providing students with the right content, as well as sifting through data to find the real insights. However, regardless of how high-quality a program may be, students won’t enjoy use it if it doesn’t offer an interesting, enjoyable experience.

Therefore, engagement features are a key component of any effective online tool for personalized learning—and this doesn’t just mean a couple of games and a selection of avatars. So, with this in mind, let’s dig in to three ways engagement features can help students achieve the larger goals of personalized learning and why they matter when you’re choosing an online tool.

1. Make the connection between data and learning goals

How many times have you had students beg to see a spreadsheet or comprehensive report of their data? The raw numbers don’t mean much to the clear majority of students –  students want to see their performance in ways that really resonate. What does that look like? For students, goal-setting tools are key. While younger learners may not necessarily be mature enough to understand the meaning of their scores across each 3rd grade reading skill, they can get behind a goal displayed in their online learning program to master five new skills within that grading period (or three new skills that month, or one that week, or whatever works for your classroom schedule). As each personalized goal is developed and tracked, students begin to adopt and internalize a growth mindset, verbalizing what they are trying to achieve and understanding what it takes to get there.

2. Encourage and reward real learning progress

Built-in currencies can often be a meaningful engagement tool for some, but when the prizes lose their luster or you’re spending more time policing how students spend their time in the program than supporting learning, the whole system can fall apart. Instead, some more innovative approaches nowadays give you, the educator, the power to determine what the prize or incentive is for specific learning metrics. For a class of second graders, it may mean a Friday dance party, while sixth graders may prefer sitting in your swivel chair for the day. Whatever makes your students tick, you deserve the option to establish a manageable incentive system that considers personal interests.

High-quality personalized learning tools recognize that in-program rewards must be used strategically to encourage specific actions. Furthermore, every student’s learning journey is unique; individual students need motivation to be applied in different ways and at various stages of learning. For example, students who are slow to attain mastery—but continue to work through each instruction and practice session until they get it—should be rewarded for their grit and tenacity. And, students who power through content and master skills independently, should also be recognized for their milestones. The metric for merit is not singular. Each individual learner requires coaching and encouragement at his or her own level, and an effective online tool will embed that mantra into engagement functionality.

3. Deliver quality content that makes learning fun and approachable

At the core of any personalized learning program is the curriculum itself. Arguably, this is where students are spending the majority of their time, and it is most definitely where the magic happens. It’s where letters and sounds are made into words and where math facts gain real-world context. To make these connections click for all kinds of learners, it’s critical to consider instructional design. The best online tools will incorporate friendly animation and storytelling to break down complicated concepts into familiar, easy-to-digest topics for all learning styles. Effective programs also incorporate explicit directions, short scaffolded instruction, and meaningful time for practice with immediate student feedback. When students are exposed to high-quality, engaging content, they are empowered with the necessary tools to make real learning gains.

At Edmentum, we’ve worked hard to make sure that our Exact Path program delivers the highest-quality curriculum in a format that prioritizes engagement and fun. Find out more about our proven approach to assessment and adaptive learning paths, or check out how Exact Path is helping drive student growth at this California elementary school!