Thoughts on “Engagement” Factor in Online Learning

By Pranesh Kumar, Copy Editor

When online learning through Google Meets first began on August 10, there was lots of anticipation and excitement about how classes would be conducted throughout the year. Students and teachers across all grade levels were thrilled about seeing each other again and interacting in an online classroom setting. Many students took the opportunity to purchase webcams and show off their faces during classes. However, as we all have probably noticed, fewer of us have our cameras on — and there is not nearly as much personal engagement during class time: the flaws of online learning are finally being exposed.


To combat issues of students not being engaged during class, the state of California has mandated a new “Participation and Engagement” component to online learning. This requirement means that teachers will have to provide graded daily assignments or detect whether students are actively participating in non-graded assignments. Personally, I am very supportive of this new initiative to implement an “engagement factor.” It helps to deter students from going AWOL during their classes while also not being too demanding in providing additional coursework.


Some teachers have been lax in implementing this new engagement component. In their classes, students simply have to participate in discussions or answer questions to satisfy the requirement. Other teachers have provided additional assignments to satisfy the “engagement factor,” including math teachers Mr. Herman, Ms. Benavides, and Ms. Trieu.


Among students in these math classes, there has been largely positive feedback as to how the teachers are incorporating personal engagement. Jack Young, a senior in Mr. Herman’s Calculus BC class, notes “I think Mr. Herman’s system of handling engagement is quite effective. Students must pay attention, as they are required to send in a picture of their notes after the first 30 minutes of class.” 


Students who already take notes during class do not need to do any additional work and can get rewarded for their efforts via classwork points. Additionally, students who do not normally take notes can utilize the opportunity to pay more attention and get more out of each class period. “While a student may stop paying attention after those first 30 minutes, quite a bit can be learned from those 30 minutes in Mr. Herman’s class,” Young mentions. 


Another teacher who has provided additional assignments based on the engagement factor requirement is Mr. Fields. Dillan Lacey, a sophomore in Mr. Fields’s AP Art History class, states “I think the engagement factor is very helpful to make sure kids stay on track during their classes. This is helpful in AP Art History because Mr. Fields doesn’t require participation during class.” This is yet again another instance of positive feedback for the engagement policy. Many students acknowledge that it comes with more work, but overall feel that it helps in staying active during class.


As with every school year, the initial hype has died down and we are stuck in a relentless cycle to catch up with all of our work. This is especially harmful for online learning, as students have more opportunities to shut themselves off and distract themselves during class time.  The “Participation and Engagement” requirement is ultimately a great initiative to deal with this issue and enhance the overall learning experience of Zoom High School.