Picture this moment: a teacher is handing back graded exams to a classroom full of anxious students. There’s a jittery excitement as each learner looks at his or her grade and work, and the comments the teacher wrote on the tests. After the students finish looking at their own tests, they survey the entire classroom, looking for facial expressions that indicate the positive or hurtful experiences graded assessments so often induce. The “handing back of the test” ceremony often ends with the teacher making some remarks recognizing students that have performed particularly well, or where student improvement is needed.
In an online learning environment, recognition of this type is largely absent. On the one hand, you lose opportunities for students to feel bad while observing others surpassing their own successes, but on the other, you also lose opportunities to recognize students for their learning triumphs. Because we have to take the good with the bad (and sometimes, the bad can help motivate students to work harder or get additional help in the future), it’s good to recognize student success no matter how they complete their learning. Below are some suggestions for celebrating student success in online learning to help further classroom community and perseverance as well as celebrate achievements.
Celebrating Student Success in Online Learning
- Run a discussion board with a theme like “How my student solved this better than me,” or “My students know more than me.”
- Every teacher has a moment where their students outshine them, and these moments should be celebrated, particularly when learning takes place in an online environment and students may not have as clear a sense of where they stand among their peers. A blog or discussion board can promote a screen capture of a student’s work when they step outside of the scope of the original problem, as with the following examples:
- In Math: The student shows a different way to solve a problem the teacher has already solved.
- In Science: The student finds deeper, or different, facts or knowledge illuminating the subject currently being studied.
- In English: The student shares yet another interpretation or creative expression for an assignment, taking a class lesson further.
- In Social Studies: The student offers further explanations for events or additional details not mentioned in class.
- Let this discussion be student-led, or one where a teacher can post examples they see from the assessments (that the students can learn from). The online-classroom culture should be one where students feel comfortable expanding on ideas, so post a thoughtful question with the student’s work, and invite other students to do the same.
- The teacher directly emails a student, or gives a shout-out in a chat room about student work that both offers recognition and furthers class discussion.
- Ask a student to host a video chat, like an Ask Me Anything (AMA) conversation where they can share their perspective on a particular topic or problem-solving technique. The AMA doesn’t have to be academic in nature; the student can be recognized for a positive contribution to the classroom, share a study skill they find helpful, or even recognize a peer and their work.
- The students become an expert in a particular field by creating a blog resource or instructional video. Here they are challenged by their classmates to teach or review a topic, perhaps before an assessment. The students post resources they are responsible for explaining, and their classmates may use the comments section to ask related questions. This format provides the teacher and the entire learning community an opportunity to recognize each learner for their individual contributions.
- Create an Instagram channel of student wonderfulness. Devote a channel to one class, where their work can be celebrated and discussed, and create a personalized hashtag so students can post on their own accounts if they’d like. To draw more attention to the channel, share extra learning opportunities, like what to expect for the quiz or extra-credit questions where students can work toward an answer and share it online, and get bonus points for doing so.
It’s critically important for students to be recognized within their online learning community. When we are celebrating student success in online learning by highlighting growth and achievements, with the students doing the same for each other, many of the positive attributes of the traditional classroom and community are kept alongside the benefits that come with online learning.