University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Increasing Engagement with Students in This Post-COVID-19 Environment

Increasing student engagement post-COVID

September 2, 2020 | By Mark Zweig

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For those of us who teach at the university level, how we can increase student engagement when we may never even physically see our students is something we are all thinking about.

It has to be a priority in the current COVID-19 environment when we don’t have the normal face-to-face interaction you get in a classroom.

I don’t have any fantastic or particularly creative answer to this question. But as educators, we need some answers! Here is what I am thinking so far:

  1. Give out more pre- and post-class assignments.
  2. This makes it harder for a student to disconnect between assignments or tests. They have to stay engaged because they are constantly being asked to do something. This is really important!

  3. Provide lots of feedback with constant grading.
  4. Everyone likes to know they are accomplishing something. Positive reinforcement works. That means we have to give lots of feedback, and the more frequently we can provide it, the better.

  5. Make all reading assignments topical and fresh and use new material constantly.
  6. This will hopefully keep the students more engaged because the reading will be more relevant to the current situation. It will also show I am engaged myself — and leadership as a teacher (or in any setting, for that matter) is all about setting the right example.

  7. Encourage students to call, email or text with questions and be super fast to respond.
  8. I have always tried to do this and it frequently shows up as something my students appreciate about me in the teaching evaluations we ask students to provide at the end of each semester. That said, in the current environment, it’s more important than ever, and I will do an even better job than I have in the past.

  9. Encourage one-on-one meetings with students in outdoor locations.
  10. Sure, it may be a hassle to have to drive somewhere to do this — not to mention the coffee or soft drink I will be probably be paying for myself and my student. But it’s worth it. You cannot confine your availability to regular “office hours” in this current environment. I think we will all have to be much more willing to meet students than ever before — even on days we may not be on campus or weekends or evenings.

  11. Be empathetic.
  12. Everyone is struggling with this thing. This applies to our students as well. Most of my students are seniors. Many have lost their part-time jobs. A number of them have had their internships cancelled or scaled back. Many are worried about how they will find a job post-graduation. They also may be worried about how they can do all they have to do, such as completing group projects in this environment. Not everyone in our area even has a good internet connection. As teachers we have to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of our students.

Any other ideas on how to improve student engagement during this time? Let’s keep the discussion going!

Drop me a line at and share your thinking.

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Mark ZweigMark Zweig – a leading expert in management and business for the architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental industry – is president of Mark Zweig, Inc., which has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies; chairman and founder of Zweig Group – named to the Inc. list three times – and entrepreneur-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.