Classrooms are about more than curriculum. Students develop social skills and rely on a safe community to learn. That’s why the transition to a virtual classroom brings unique challenges in student engagement.

Here are five ways to keep your students connected and motivated while learning from home.

1) Make a discussion forum.

Technology today gives people the ability to communicate with each other from anywhere and on many different platforms. Having a centralized discussion page for students to comment on things is a great way to help them stay connected.

In this forum, they can share pictures, videos, ask for help from peers, or even just create conversation like they normally would at school. Teachers can also share any activities or updates as needed to keep students informed.

Many tools could be utilized to create a class discussion page. Apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or GroupMe are great for group communication. Other platforms such as Kialo or Yellowdig can also be used to provide articles, pose questions, or create polls for students to engage in together.

2) Create an online classroom.

Depending on the size of the class and technological resources available to students, creating a virtual classroom or video conference will facilitate class communication. Teachers can use a video conference platform like Zoom to connect all students through a livestream, where they would be able to ask questions and make comments on class topics.

Google Hangouts, another video conferencing platform, gives teachers the ability to livestream lessons with students, who can interact with each other as if they were actually in class. Both of these platforms are currently providing free upgraded subscriptions for K-12 schools.

3) Do fun introduction activities.

One way to keep students interested in connecting through online classes is by establishing some sort of fun introductory activity to “break the ice”. This could take many different forms, but the goal here is to get students excited and ready to learn right away.

Teachers could have students share a picture or a short video of themselves with the class at the beginning of the day. Encourage students to upload a picture of a pet, have an online show and tell, or set up a group pajama day. The possibilities are endless – so get creative!

4) Go on virtual field trips.

In-person field trips may not be an option when it comes to online classes, however, don’t let that stop you from providing your students the ability to explore the world. Virtual tours or field trips are a great resource to provide students the opportunity to experience museums, zoos, or historical landmarks together.

Teachers could arrange for students to take a virtual tour on or another website, and then share with classmates what they found interesting. This allows students to connect over a shared virtual experience while learning more about class topics.

5) Build teams for classroom competition.

Teachers can help students stay connected online by arranging them into teams to compete in a continuous class competition. These different teams could communicate with each other frequently and partake in a challenge on a class subject.

Competitions could consist of weekly trivia questions, brain teasers, or any challenges that will keep your students engaged. These teams could also be used for group projects and allow students to connect in a smaller setting.

For students to feel connected online, it’s important to implement new ways of communication and learning. With these tips, teachers are sure to construct a classroom atmosphere of community and collaboration in a digital setting.