Since introducing the English language learning platform EnGen as a supplementary self-paced distance learning tool just about a year ago, Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) have seen student outcomes grow from 38 points to 134, a 250% increase as measured by Growth Points. At a recent webinar, we hosted Melinda Dart and Joyce Jackson from the Adult Continuing Education program at CCPS in Virginia for a roundtable discussion about their success.
EnGen is unique in that it provides learners with lessons personalized to their skill level as well as their diverse personal and career interests. As a result, by keeping students engaged in the platform, Melinda and Joyce said they’re not just helping students make gains in reading, writing, listening, and English-speaking abilities, but they are also simultaneously building digital literacy and workplace readiness skills.
While their success in engaging students can be seen in the increased outcomes, it can also be seen in their ability to grow their distance learning program from 50 student accounts at the start to over 100, with the hopes of adding more as their budget allows.
Here are five engagement strategies Melinda and Joyce are using to keep their students engaged that can be tailored to use with any distance learning program.
- Set goals and create an achievable schedule for students. When it comes to student persistence, we hear this over and over, because it works. Long-term goals can seem daunting and maybe even unattainable. When your students set achievable goals, and reach them on a realistic schedule, they become motivated to achieve the next goal.
- Offer incentives. At CCPS, students who meet attendance and post-test requirements become eligible for a 50% tuition discount. This is huge for adults who may have limited income to enroll in the program. It not only engages students to log in regularly, but it also encourages them to complete the program to earn the incentive.
- Conduct weekly check-ins either through a virtual meeting room or over email. Meeting with students regularly gives you the chance to make sure students are progressing as they should be and to help them through any areas that they’re getting hung up on. If you check in over email, you can even add motivational quotes to inspire students.
- Provide co-enrollment opportunities. It’s like bundling your home and auto insurance for a cheaper price. Melinda and Joyce said they offer their higher-level students with more advanced English the chance to also take workforce or GED classes, for example, at a reduced rate. This is appealing because it sets them up to use their new language skills in a way that will help them achieve career goals.
- Recognize students’ hard work. CCPS has a Digital Wall of Fame to recognize individuals’ academic milestones. Acknowledging achievements gives students the understanding that you see the work they’re putting in, and that you’re proud of them. This can encourage them to stick with it and work harder toward the next milestone.
The success at CCPS is proof that programs that support their students and foster engagement can have overwhelming success.