Emotions & Engagement in an online class: COVID-19 survey

In the previous article, we have extensively discussed how emotions in a student are of unavoidable importance. We have seen the major types of emotions that are present in the student. We also have discussed few case studies and research which prove what is the importance of emotion in a student’s life.

In 2020, the entire world faced one of the most horrific pandemics of our time called COVID-19. The devastation was that the entire world went into lockdown. This was the time when we realized the importance of online education. There was a sudden boom in the Edtech industry and the entire world started studying online, and most of the lectures were either pre-recorded or through live interaction.

Unlike the emotions of students in the classroom (during the offline class), we have found that the major emotions of students during the online class are: CALM, SAD, SURPRISED, HAPPY, CONFUSED, ANGRY, FEAR, DISGUSTED.

Distracted student (Image source: Unsplash)

Before we go and talk about the engagement, we have to understand the term ‘engagement’. The term student engagement has grown in popularity in recent decades, most likely resulting from an increased understanding of the role that certain intellectual, emotional, behavioural, physical, and social factors play in the learning process and social development. For example, a wide variety of research studies on learning have revealed connections between so-called “non-cognitive factors” or “non-cognitive skills” (e.g., motivation, interest, curiosity, responsibility, determination, perseverance, attitude, work habits, self-regulation, social skills, etc.) and “cognitive” learning results (e.g., improved academic performance, test scores, information recall, skill acquisition, etc.). The concept of student engagement typically arises when educators discuss or prioritize educational strategies and teaching techniques that address the developmental, intellectual, emotional, behavioural, physical, and social factors that either enhance or undermine learning for students.

While online education gives us the flexibility to learn, it also brings new challenges into the ecosystem. We went on to do a small survey among the students and teachers, understanding the challenges they are facing during the online classes. Around 93% of the teacher felt that they didn’t know whether the students were paying attention, while 67% felt that offline teaching is much better than online teaching. During another question round, 78% of teachers appreciated the way the online teaching has been done. Asking about the questions on how much they felt students engaged, around 83% of the teacher felt that students were not engaging in the class and most of the students don’t respond even after asking the question. The discussion on the engagement of students is not new, we have been understanding the student’s engagement through various ways in the offline classrooms. However, unlike the traditional way, it just becomes difficult to measure the engagement of students.

coding kid
Image Source: Unsplash

Engagement is a very controversial term, which we understood after doing the survey. The majority of the students feel that they are not very engaged in online class but at the same time don’t want any metrics which will record their engagement, as it can be the basis for teachers to punish them. On the other hand, teachers would love to have these engagement scores of each student present during the class. Well, we will talk about this ethics in the upcoming article but let’s try to understand how this engagement is linked with emotions.

I (Prashant) had a wonderful experience of talking with Harpreet Rakha, psychology professor at JIMS, Rohini, New Delhi, and get her opinion on this. According to her, student’s emotion plays a major role in determining the attention that student is giving in the lecture. The positive emotion certainly increases the engagement of student in the class while negative emotions decreases the engagement of the student in the class. However, she also pointed out that some of the negative emotions play very different role in individual for example a negative emotion like anger can actually make guy focus more on their study rather than distracting him. She added that the emotions are driven by a lot of factors and it is difficult to analyse them all the time unless you know the student on individual level.

We, in our studies, have, however, started without considering these anomalies and focus more on the plain study. In the next article, we will talk more about the research and its finding. If you have any more questions, then feel free to shoot us an email.

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