Source: Deluvio, Charles. Unsplash, 2019.
A necessary part of teachers' work in a virtual environment is to monitor the engagement of students. We can no longer walk around the classroom checking on student work; other approaches are necessary. The monitoring you do is to an extent dependant on the technology you have in place at the school, and how you are delivering virtual learning (e.g. synchronous versus asynchronous). These are three very simple things that I am doing to try and monitor engagement.
If you are using Google Docs, Microsoft Word online, or anything else similar, then have your students create a document for their notes, and have them share it with you. On Google, I do this with an open-ended assignment on Classroom. You can then check students' notes regularly, and provide feedback with ease.
If your school has ManageBac, then you have a massive advantage in that the platform has a newly-created student engagement tool. It looks at three measures of engagement: task completion, online lessons joined and the last ManageBac login by the student. Because this is all built into your normal management information system (MIS), it is a very efficient way of checking students are engaging with the work you are setting.
If you don't have ManageBac, then my advice is to focus is on whether the work is being done as a measure of engagement. This is because most MIS systems weren't build for a virtual environment and there is a tendency for them to focus on attendance, rather than whether work is being done. However, there are many reasons why a student may not be joining your lessons, but still completing work. One way that you can easily track engagement is to set up every lesson's work as an assignment on Google, and create a standardised 0 to 2 rubric for each lesson.
All work completed to a high standard
Some work completed or standard is not as high as it could be
No work completed
The rubric allows me to conveniently check which students aren't completing all the work, and the beauty of the Google Classroom guardian system means that parents will see if their child is not completing work in the weekly summaries too. This system is also be possible on Microsoft Teams. More on this system is explained in the next page 'Parent engagement = student engagement'.
Source: Blazek, Lucas. Unsplash, 2017.
Finally, I regularly ask students about their engagement. I do this very informally during lessons, when students are joining video calls, or in any official communication I have with them (e.g. 'Have you attended all your lessons today?'). I also survey students through Google Forms, just a few questions, so the information isn't overwhelming. You can choose to make the form anonymous or not. The advantage of anonymous is that you tend to get more honest answers; the disadvantage is that you don't know which student needs help if there's a worrying response. I personally tend to go for anonymous surveys. The six questions I usually ask are:
How many [History] video lessons did you attend this week?
Have you encountered any difficulties attending lessons (e.g. technical, motivation)? If so please provide details.
How many marks for work did you receive last week? [this would be out of a total of 9, using the engagement rubrics I set up]
How would you describe your current enthusiasm for History? [Scale from 'I am really enjoying it' to 'I am really not enjoying it']
Explain your answer above.
Please comment on any activities we have done this week that you really enjoyed or really did not enjoy, and explain why.
There's nothing special about what I am doing. I am sure many teachers are doing this and far more. However, don't underestimate how illuminating the survey results can be.