5 key ways to maintain student motivation when teaching online

University student learning online

One of the biggest challenges for all educators during the recent shift to online learning has been how to maintain students’ motivation. When each day seems the same as the last, it can be understandably difficult for students to keep their engagement and enthusiasm levels high. (The same is, of course, also true for educators!) This blog post therefore identifies 5 key ways that language educators can keep students engaged and involved when teaching and learning languages online with tools like Sanako’s virtual language classroom software, Sanako Connect.

Sanako Connect for example includes a wealth of unique product features that help language educators keep students motivated and on track with their language learning. That’s why the world’s leading educational institutions choose Sanako Connect as their go-to solution for delivering both face-to-face and online language lessons.


Offer opportunities to practice all core language skills

One of the best ways to keep students motivated during online learning is to give them more opportunities to practice their core language skills, which helps to demonstrate the progress that they’re making.

Language educators typically try to include as many opportunities as possible for students to practice the core skills of language learning – listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Of these, speaking and pronunciation are generally recognised as the hardest skills to master when learning a new language. Sanako Connect has therefore been specifically designed to increase the time each student spends speaking and actively practicing conversations during online classes.

Screenshot from Sanako Connect - A student pair engaged in learning new vocabulary

Connect’s functionality is also uniquely able to deliver a multimedia learning experience. This incorporates a wide variety of learning task, whilst practising core language skills. Students could, for example, be required to use Connect’s unique recording functionality to record a spoken response to a text-based translation task. They might also be asked to listen to a piece of audio content pre-recorded by the teacher and then provide detailed written answers in their target language. This flexibility helps to give students an engaging variety of content to work with and enables them to constantly practice their core language skills.


Use a wide range of stimulus content

When students are sitting in front of a computer screen all day, it can be easy for all lessons and subjects to merge into one. Student feedback is clear – they’re looking for lessons that grab their attention, that are creative, and which make use of a wide variety of different stimulus materials. Anything but just another PowerPoint presentation!

Again Sanako Connect has the solution in hand by combining the best bits of a physical language lab with all of the elements of a modern virtual classroom software. Connect makes it easy for teachers to upload a wide variety of learning material for students to use. Any number of PDFs, presentations, YouTube videos, and web pages can, for example, be easily attached to an online lesson plan and shared with students. Connect also allows educators to embed external source code, enabling them to access and use third-party apps within the Connect environment.

Sanako Connect demonstration image - Role play activity where students guide a lost tourist

Educators can also use Connect to create tasks for students based on this material. These include model imitation, video tasks, oral assessments, or fill-in-the-blanks tasks for students that can be created by educators in minutes.


Make it easy to access

In the rush to provide online language learning, educators and institutions have tried using a wealth of different tools and resources to deliver learning. But this tends to irritate and annoy the learner, who simply wants to get on with their lesson. As a result, they quickly become disengaged as educators waste time, constantly swapping and changing between different apps.

Connect takes a different approach – everything is in the same place thereby improving teaching efficiency and maximising the learning experience. It’s also much easier to get lessons started with Connect: teachers create a new lesson directly in Connect and then simply circulate a unique URL to all participating learners. Students just have to click on that link to join the online class – without needing to download any apps, so there are no IT set-up issues to worry about either!

Students also prefer using online learning platforms like Connect. They can flexibly participate in lessons from anywhere with an internet connection and can conveniently access all of the lesson resources within a single application. 


Demonstrate progress

One of the best ways to motivate students is by highlighting the progress that they’re making and/or identifying where improvements could be made. Students can become rapidly demotivated when assignments are not marked and they have no sense of how they’re getting on. This is particularly important when learning languages as progress can often be slow and difficult to see. Again Connect has been designed to make it as easy as possible for teachers to mark work and provide feedback to students.

For example, once each lesson has been completed by all students, educators can use Connect to easily review the work submitted. They can study the work submitted by individual students or use a whole class view to see their collective performance in specific assignments. The latter enables educators to clearly identify where the class is struggling and where additional work is needed to clarify or consolidate learning. Importantly, these precise feedback mechanisms enable educators to carefully target/personalise subsequent lessons – this enhances ongoing academic attainment and helps retain students’ engagement.

Sanako Connect demonstration image - Giving feedback on a student's AP exam submission

Feedback can also be easily shared with students via Connect’s messaging functionality. Educators can give feedback directly to individual students or simultaneously to the whole group via a text-based message. At the same time, they can also choose to record and send voice feedback to individual students as a way to provide more in-depth and quality feedback, especially if it’s for developing a student’s oral skills.


Tailor teaching to students’ needs

Every educator knows how important it is to tailor their teaching to the specific needs of their students and their classes. If students feel that their needs are not being catered for or listened to, that can be an important reason why they disengage from learning.

Most importantly in this regard, Sanako Connect enables educators to design and personalise the learning experiences for every student, thanks to the diversity of content elements and task types available. Tailored learning resources and tasks can be easily shared with groups of students to ensure that content is accessible and engaging.

Teachers can also easily use Connect to identify each student’s engagement with each lesson and each sub-part. Connect notifies the teacher if, for example, students recorded their speaking practice or whether they opened the translation exercise. Teachers can clearly identify progress (or the lack of) and address areas for improvement with targeted lessons and resources. 

Connect also enables educators to either deliver live classes (synchronous teaching) and/or allow students to learn at their own pace (asynchronous teaching), where resources can be easily accessed from Connect whenever they are required.

Sanako Connect demonstration image - Teacher streaming live video to students

Teachers and students are able to access and use Sanako Connect in the classroom, from remote locations, or any combination of settings. Teachers can, for example, use Sanako Connect to deliver teaching face to face in the classroom and/or entirely remotely. Equally, follow-up work can be saved to the cloud, enabling students to complete the exercises from home and then automatically return them to their teachers.

We’ve also heard from many students that Connect also plays a key role in reducing their anxiety and actually increases their willingness to communicate during online language classes. For some learners, communicating with or via technology can be less stressful than doing it face-to-face in a classroom environment. Some learners also prefer having more time to process and review associated stimulus materials and to plan and prepare their responses.


If you are interested in learning more about how Sanako’s language teaching software supports language teachers and students and would like to see how it could benefit your institution, book a FREE remote demo now to see it in action.

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This blog post was last updated 23 May, 2023.