Traditionally, a school or a college is where students go to learn. Apart from learning new things, they get the opportunity to interact, build relationships, and become aware of social values and etiquette.
With technology evading every corner of the world, including the education industry, the learners’ amount of time in physical classes is diminishing every passing month.
The rate highly depends on the educational institution, type of class, or the student’s willingness to show up for physical or blended classes. That wasn’t a big deal before, but the rate at which the world is adapting to virtual learning and the commonly known advantages of the traditional learning style that are threatened raise lots of questions.
Students will no longer have a supportive community where they can practice what they learn or understand what coexisting really means. To make matters worse, when not learning, students are often caught up in social media or online gaming. So how will they build social skills? This is one of the main concerns among parents, psychologists, and guardians.
What are social skills and how are they important in one’s life?
Precisely social skills are one’s ability to interact, communicate and build healthier relationships in life. Social skills are an integral component of one’s life. The way one can communicate, relate or coexist with others harmoniously is all influenced by social skills (interpersonal skills). Developing one’s social skills during childhood can help him/her maintain good relationships with others. Commonly, school or college is seen as a place where students can build their social skills.
Ways to Enhance Social Skills in Students During Virtual Learning
As a professional teacher, there are many ways in which you can help students build their social skills during online classes as elaborated below.
1. Promote Open Participation
What is open participation and what impact does it have on virtual learning or students’ social skills? Open participation is merely letting every student contribute or share opinions during the virtual class. If it isn’t a rule, a teacher should try to ask for students’ opinions as a way of encouraging interaction. Many educational and learning apps facilitate interaction with several features like hand raise, among others to allow participation.
Try to include brainstorming sessions in your online classes for students to learn beyond their syllabus. In this way, they will learn how to express themselves, be confident, and creative. In the same way, it will improve the students’ online learning experience.
2. Online Debates & Quizzes
Since we’ve talked about open participation, how can we ignore debates and quizzes’ power to enhance social skills during virtual learning? One of the major issues that parents believe is a threat is limited communication or face-to-face interaction. Unlike physical classes where students can meet for chit-chat during the break, play together or share meals, virtual classes limit a student’s interaction to only a teacher. Yet, strong social skills are obtained by interacting with different personalities and experiences.
So as a teacher, you can help your students develop formidable social skills by organising debates, extempores, and quizzes in which they share ideas and learn the different rules of engagement. Also, ensure to guide the students during participation or give your opinions about a student’s conduct.
3. Try Out Synchronous Discussions
Apart from emotional intelligence, time management is a vital skill that students must develop from their early stages. With that, synchronous discussions can help students show up on time and have longer interactions with the entire class, unlike asynchronous participation. Synchronous Discussions refer to online discussions where participants must be present at the same time to take part in the discussion.
When students show up on time as requested, it builds their ethics and helps them to program themselves effectively.
Many researchers stress that learners' active participation in online courses is associated with high levels of learner performance and higher retention rates. So by opting for synchronous discussions, students get the chance to interact and enhance their social skills.
4. Encourage them to Practice Good Manners
Discipline is essential in building personal and professional relationships. Some people even say “spare the rod and spoil the child”. There is no way a student is going to learn without practicing what he/she is taught. If a student is inattentive, late, or showing inappropriate behaviour, it’s a teacher’s responsibility to correct them.
On the other hand, encourage them to show gratitude to others, apologise, smile, listen, and even mind their body language while talking in public. Also, as a teacher, pay attention to a student’s body language or expressions during class participation.
5. Show Up With An Influencer
Influencers are not only a big deal in marketing, but they are also icebreakers in virtual learning. Say goodbye to boring online classes by showing up with a new face. I don’t mean a face full of makeup, but a buddy with a good sense of humour if you can’t get a famous personality. You ought to know that your students are always looking forward to a new experience generally because they can’t interact with each other physically.
Let the influencer pose general or open-ended questions or offer a chance to the students to talk about themselves. At the end of it all, also provide a platform for the students to ask anything they wish to the influencer. In this way, they can develop their social skills.
6. Encourage Teamwork & Create Leadership Opportunities
There are many issues that students may face while studying online yet many times, we simply focus on teaching them. Like in a physical classroom, a teacher must take the initiative to ask how a student feels, or whether he/she is finding problems with the course work. Analyse the level of engagement and belongingness. Sometimes students want to offer their best, but they feel like they don’t belong to a class.
With that, assign students to teams where they can discuss and share ideas. Also, encourage them to meet in person to study together or complete an assignment. Through this, they will get time to interact with each other hence, enhancing their social skills.
Similarly, create leadership opportunities in online classes to make learning more effective and rewarding. It is correct to say that social skills make an essential part of leadership theories. Encourage students to lead group projects or conversations to allow critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
7. Set Time Aside for Informal Interaction
Education today isn’t only about transferring knowledge to a student. Social interaction is crucial to students’ learning as they get the chance to put into action what they learn. So, since your students are opting for virtual classes, you can also play a role in their socialisation.
There are some platforms where students can interact beyond academics. These platforms encourage informal discussions and participants can form subgroups hence fostering relationships. Besides, you can encourage peer learning through debates, etc.
All in all, although virtual learning has an observable negative impact on the development of social skills among students, there are several ways teachers can help students build their social skills. We are currently living in a digital era and virtual learning will only increase in popularity. In one way or another, a student may have to opt for virtual learning due to its flexibility, convenience, and affordability.
To some, virtual learning is disconnecting people and certainly impacting their social skills. So how can teachers enhance their students’ social skills during virtual learning? The several ways mentioned here are the answer.