Learners’ participation is a meaningful thing in a teaching and learning activity. It is because learners’ participation is one of the indications whether or not the success of teaching and learning process is achieved. The higher learners’ participation the higher success of teaching and learning process.

In a conventional face-to-face class, learners’ participation can be measured easily by checking directly their involvement of each learner during the prosess of teaching and learning. however, in a virtual class where the learners study by using screen of computer or smart phone with internet connection, learners’ participation is quite hard to be measured. The measuring indicators is more complex than conventional face-to-face class. Moreover, the “screen” is often considered as the barrier for learners to participate actively in a virtual class. Whereas, learners’ participation is a prominent thing to achieve meaningful teaching and learning activity with good quality. Hence, strategies are needed as the solution to improve learners’ participation.

Hrastinski in a scientific article entitled “A Theory of Online Learning as Online Participation” explained that learners’ participation in online learning:

  • is a complex process to involve and take a part in the whole of learning activities and maintain good relation with others as well.
  • is supported by physical tools (such as computer, smart phone, internet connection, and online learning software) and psychological tools (it can be in form of language which is being used by teachers to convey learning material and motivate learners as personal)
  • is not only in form of writing and speaking activities but also thinking process and constructing knowledge)
  • can involve learners’ interaction and collaboration.

Those definitions support theory of constructivism that learning is a process of constructing knowledge, so teachers’ role is not transfer the knowledge directly but support the learners to construct it by themselves through various learning activities. Learning is considered as a social activity where the learners should interact and collaborate with orhers to construct the knowledge. The interaction can be in form of discussion, solving problems or a case related to the material, presenting idea, etc. The learners should be actively involved in the whole learning activities which has been designed by the teacher.

Therefore, to facilitate learners construct knowledge and attract their interests to participate in virtual learning activity some strategies are needed as being explained below.

Strategies to Improve Learners’ Participantion

Hand Signals for Class Discussion

Discussion is one of recommended strategies to trigger learners be actively participate in learning process. However, discussion here ia not only about conventional asking and answering questions related with particular topic. Teachers or facilitator can design an attractive discussion activity for the learners.

To design a discussion activity in learning process, the first thing should be done by the teachers is deciding goals and targets of the discussion. For instance, the goal is facilitating learners to construct the knowledge. Then, the target are every single learner be able to speak and convey their idea related to the topic being discussed and be able to make a good conclusions and reflection in the end of the learning process.

After that, teachers or facilitators can open the discussion by explaining a topic or stating problem. Then, to choose the first student to speak and respond teacher’s statement, the teachers can use an application to choose a name randomly. For example Ramdom Name Generator Application. This is actually just simple thing, but it will be attractive and impressive for the learners. And then, after the first student has been choosen, she or he speaks, another students can participate in the discussion by conveying their idea related to the topic or responding previous statements. They can use hand signal to convey their idea as the following picture.

Usually the learners will be enthusiast to try using the hand signal. Hence, thet will be motivated to actively participate in the discussion. In context of virtual learning, hand signal will be better applied in synchronous online learning using conference video media. Everyone’s camera must be on. So, it will be easier to know who rise their hand by using the hand signal to respond friends’ statement in the discussion.

Online Think-Pair-Share

The role and effectiveness of think-pair-share as learning strategy has been being object of studies. The studies show that this strategy can give optimal opportunity to the learners to participate in learning activities.

Think-pair-share strategy can be adopted to be virtual class activity. There are some design of online think-pair-share. One of them is by using conference video applications especially Zoom.

To implement online think-pair-share, teachers can conduct Zoom meeting as the host. Then, teachers give introduction to triger learners’ prior knowledge related to the material which is being learned. After that teachers divide the learners into group of four. Each group gets a topic or problem to be discussed.

Then, each group is moved to a breakout room (a fitur of Zoom which enable users to divide meeting into some smaller groups). First, the problem is discussed by each 2 learners (pair). Then they will be back to group of four to discuss it more complex and make conclusions.

When each group is done with their discussion, they will be back to the meeting which is consisted of all class members. Representative of each class share the result of their discussion. Another students may respond it. So, the discussion is happened to make everyone understand all topics given to each smaller groups.

Virtual Gallery Walk

Virtual gallery walk can be conducted in various ways. One of the most simple ways is by using social media such as Instagram. First, teachers give assignment to students. The assignment should be submitted in form of poster or video to be posted in Instagram. Then, every single student must visit others’ instagram postings to give comment which is appropriate with the content of the Instagram post. By using concept of dealing with social media, usually students be attracted to participate in the learning activity.

Besides, virtual gallery walk can be done by collaborating both Zoom and Google Docs. Before the class started, teachers prepare some topics (it can be in form of texts, questions, or pictures) for every group, save each topic in Google Docs with different number. After explaining the rules to the learners, teachers divide them into some smaller groups by using breakout room. Each group discusses different topics (with different number) from Google Doc which has been prepared before. Teachers visit every breakout room to make sure everyone has good comprehension about the topic.

After the discussion done, teachers regroup the students so they meet friends from the other groups. Every student in the new group is a representative of basic group who is responsible to explain about her/his topic. This regroup can be done several times till all students get explanation about all topics.

Gallery walk is an active and engaging activity. It can trigger learners to think critically. The process of constructing knowledge and material concept is also happened by interacting with others. Each learner must comprehend the topic which has been discussed in his/her group because of having responsibility to explain it to friends from other groups and make them understand. Besides, the learners also have responsibility to make themselves understand all topics through explanation from the other groups’ representative. Willy nilly, they will be motivated to be involved and participate actively in this activity.

Spider Web Discussion

Spider web discussion is a learning strategy that can train learners to be discussion leaders. It is stated in a book entitled “The Best Class You Never Taught” written by Alexis Wiggins. Here, teachers only play a role as supervisor of the discussion and direct the learners if they misunderstood of a concept and guide them to do reflection in the end of learning process.

Spider web discussion can be conducted in synchronous online learning by using conference video application. Before the class begun, learners accomplish assignment individually from teachers. Then, in the begining of the class the learner convey the result of the assignment as material of class discussion. While listening to the discussion, teachers can draw lines and connect the discussion flow. So, the spider web will be created as the following picture.

In the end of learning activity, teachers can show the spider web and make reflection about material of their discussion.

Conclusion

Learning activities should be a process for students to construct their comprehension of concept or knowledge through experience, collaboration or interaction they do. Learning activities design should be made to enable learners make them. It indicates that all learners must participate actively in the whole learning process. Learners participation is one of indication that the learning process is meaningful with good quality. However, in online learning or virtual class, it is found several cases that students are less motivation to participate actively. Hence, teachers need to implement learning strategies to improve learners’ participation in learning activities. There are various strategies that can be implemented, such as: hand-signal for discussion, online think-pair-share, virtual gallery walk , and discussion spider web.