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8 Virtual Tutoring Tips to Keep Students Engaged

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

Tips to keep mentees engaged
Maintaining a connection where mentees can indulge in deep learning over the internet may sound like a paradox. Having taught students in physical classroom settings for the longest time, many mentors struggle to ignite that spark when teaching students online.
While we can't deny the benefits of in-person interactions for building trust and rapport, it's possible to make virtual mentoring sessions as effective and engaging, if not more.
Considering the direct impact of learner engagement on performance and achievement1, it's safe to say that delivering engaging sessions online is a critical skill that differentiates good mentors from those who fail to make an impact.
Thankfully, there are tons of tips and tricks that you can use to keep mentees engaged and make your virtual mentoring sessions a big success.

Top 8 Virtual Mentoring Tips to Keep Mentees Engaged

  1. Use Tech Features to Your Advantage

    While you may blame video platforms for not letting you engage with your mentees the way you'd like, some offer built-in tech features to gain and maintain learners' attention. These include group chats, polls, whiteboards, and gestures like raised hands and thumbs-ups.
    Introducing mentees to these features early in the session will help build a virtual connection and motivate them to participate in lectures.
    Here are a few ways to use these tech tools during your online class:
    • You can throw in some questions during the session and ask students to share their responses in the chat. Then you can applaud and reward those who give correct answers or make a meaningful contribution to discussions.
    • Create a couple of polls ahead of time depending on the topic/s you want to discuss during a particular session. You can also create one spontaneously if the lecture takes a different direction after a student's comment, asking what everybody else thinks.
    • Use whiteboards to make it easier for students to work on group projects. These boards also promote accountability and transparency since the entire class can see a group's progress on the assigned topic.
    • Ask the mentees to pour in suggestions for an activity for the next class in the chat after you're done with a lecture.
    • Create shared documents on Google Docs that everyone can edit for group assignments.
  2. Tie in Personal or Real-Life Stories with the Lecture

    Personal anecdotes and real-life stories2 are proven to increase learner engagement. The best time to use them is when you start a lecture—saying something that everyone finds interesting before diving into the details will help draw your mentees into the discussion and make them feel like they're talking to a friend. Make sure the story is relevant to what they're learning in class and relatable to them.
    You can also encourage your mentees to self-reflect at this point. Have they experienced something similar before? How have they applied it in their own lives? These questions will help you find common ground and make connections between the topic being discussed and what your mentee may be going through.
    On the other hand, if you're discussing something happening in the world, ask your students if they know anyone affected by this problem.
    Whatever story you tell, make sure you keep it short and to the point to avoid losing the audience.
  3. Use Warm Calls or Cold Calls to Solicit Participation

    One of the best tips to keep mentees engaged is to announce at the start that you'll call on participants to share their input throughout the session. This heads-up will keep the learners attentive and ready to contribute to the discussion, minimizing their likelihood of multitasking.
    Now, you can pick random students (cold calls) or ask those interested in contributing to raise their hands (warm calls). A mix of both approaches is ideal, as it keeps everyone on their toes throughout the lecture without disregarding students who may have something to say.
  4. Balance the Use of Body Language and Visual Aids

    In a virtual classroom setting, presence is one of the most crucial yet challenging things to demonstrate. Many mentors think they can only do so by looking into the camera and through facial expressions and hand movements.
    If you think along the same lines, you may believe turning your face away from the camera for even a minute will make you lose your students' attention, but it's not true.
    In fact, trying to get your point across using body language only can be counter-productive.
    You must balance the verbal lecture, nods, facial expressions, and hand gestures with visual aids3, such as slideshows or infographics. They provide a visual reference for students who learn better by seeing information while offering you a nice break from the use of body language, which can be distracting if done too much.
    When using visual aids, explain them clearly and relate them to the main points of your lecture. Also, if you're using text-based materials like slides, don't use them all at once. Sprinkle them in between your lectures to keep things interesting.
    By finding the right balance between different types of media, you can create an engaging and interactive environment for your students.
    Pro tip: play ambient music that blends into the background when you ask students to take a short break for brainstorming. The music will fill the silence without distracting the audience from the subject matter.
  5. Conduct Regular Check-ins and Gather Feedback

    One of the most important virtual mentoring tips is creating an environment that encourages each student to openly discuss their concerns and share feedback. This will help your mentees feel like more of a partner in your classroom rather than passive recipients of instruction.
    Encourage them to ask questions about what they've learned, what they're working on, or even about the things you're excited to discuss in the subsequent sessions. This will help them feel like they have ownership over their learning and motivation.
    In turn, this will help you figure out where your students need more help and what areas need improvement.
    The best way to go about this is by scheduling regular check-in sessions with the mentees. Ideally, you should set aside time every week to talk to each student regarding their progress. This one-on-one interaction will keep the relationship alive, showing each mentee that the connection is important to you. It'll also help ensure that everyone stays focused and on track with their goals (both personal and shared).
    Apart from this, you can adopt the following practices to stay in touch with mentees' expectations and keep them engaged:
    • Begin each session by answering the questions students sent in after the previous session. This will recap the last topic you discussed while ensuring that everybody is ready to move forward.
    • Do an end-of-class poll to see if you were able to deliver the intended message successfully and how many students took something away from the session. This will help modify your teaching technique and style to see what hits the nail on the head. Even if something doesn't work as well as you hoped, your mentees will appreciate the variety.
  6. Don't Dread the Silence

    What do you think you'd do if you throw a question at the class and don't immediately see any of the students raising their hands to answer?
    There's a good chance you'll interpret the silence as a lack of engagement and be tempted to call on a volunteer or give away the answer yourself.
    This is where you drop the ball as a mentor.
    In a virtual classroom, it can sometimes take longer for your voice to reach the students (due to technical delays) and for the students to digest and respond to the information.
    After asking a question, you must wait a few seconds for the mentees to conjure an answer and offer to share it with the class. Use the extra time to observe the learners' body language before rephrasing the question, asking a follow-up question, or requesting someone to speak.
  7. Offer Praise Whenever You Can

    One of the easiest tips to keep mentees engaged is giving positive feedback when it's deserved. A simple comment like, "Great job on that last assignment!" can do wonders.
    But don't wait until a student finishes a job perfectly before you say anything nice about them. Offer praise to support the baby steps they take toward success. You could say something like, "I appreciate how hard you've been working this week," or "I'm excited to see the final look of your project."
    This will help them see how valuable they are as an individual, boosting their confidence and motivating them to work harder.
  8. Send Follow-Up Emails

    Regular follow-ups and evaluations are essential aspects of effective mentoring.
    After each session, you should spend a few minutes discussing its outcomes and the overall progress of the students. It's also a good time to shed light on what you'll be focusing on in the next class and perhaps ask the learners to read up a few pages on the topic, so everyone has a basic idea beforehand.

Deliver Highly Engaging Lectures with Mentor DB

If you don't focus on engaging with your online mentees, you risk losing sight of what really matters: making sure they feel heard and understood.
Successful outcomes from online mentoring can be achieved by using interactive technology features, adding a personal touch to lectures, asking lots of questions, using visual aids, reviewing students' progress, appreciating every little effort, gathering feedback to mix and match various teaching techniques, and keeping communication lines open throughout.
Join the group of top-rated tutors at Mentor DB today to make a real impact in students' lives.