Most students are, understandably, having a rough time during this transition to online learning in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them might even be students who were not struggling whatsoever before, in the context of traditional in-person instruction. Extroverted students, in particular, are out of their element in the world of social distancing, because they thrive in social environments and tend to get their energy from being around others. If you notice that some of your normally high-energy students seem lower energy in the remote learning classroom, the effects of isolation might be at play.
In remote learning, educators may have to, for the first time in many instances, put more consideration into meeting the extroverted students’ needs; these students tend to be able to advocate for themselves and get what they need within traditional classrooms because they have a social learning style. But in the remote learning environment, extroverted students may languish without interaction or acknowledgment.
Because student motivation is a core factor in student success (not to mention academic integrity ), it’s important to include as many learning styles and behaviors as possible in a remote classroom (especially when many have been thrust into unanticipated remote learning environments). In fact, according to a 2012 study by Yovav Eshet, Keren Grinautsky, and Yehula Peled , “Intrinsic motivation is considered to be a significant predictor of persistence and achievement in distance education.” They conclude that “academic dishonesty can be explained by extrinsic motivation.” So, it’s critical to nurture both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for all students, including extroverted students struggling for what may be the first time in their academic lives.
We can’t give the extroverted students exactly what they need – a classroom full of people – but here are a few ideas on how you can support the extrovert in your remote learning classroom.
Lead a Discussion
If your class is heavy on discussion, set aside time for a student to lead a mini-discussion every day--this needn’t be a requirement but one of several participation options (students uninterested in this can have a different assignment, like an essay, blog/journal entry, or quick slideshow presentation). In this scenario, assign the student to look over the syllabus and pick a topic they’d like to facilitate and prepare by coming up with 1-3 questions to ask the class. Have extroverted students (or introverted students who by now also crave interaction and signed up for the assignment) email you the questions the day before so you can offer feedback if needed. Then, dedicate the opening of class to their discussion. You can let the conversation flow naturally into your own discussion or set a specific time frame for the student to facilitate discussion.
Presentations or Papers
Let students choose between presenting on a subject or writing about it. This will let introverts and extroverts alike select the assignment that works best for their learning style. You can scale this up and down, from impromptu presentations and quick journal entries to formal presentations and essays. That they are given a choice will make students feel seen and their learning styles included.
Several video platforms have options for small group discussions. If you’re using one of these, breaking into small groups can be a great opportunity to help your extroverted students feel fulfilled (and for your more introverted students to “warm-up” for group discussion). Most of these platforms will allow you to jump between rooms to check in on discussions and ask follow up questions. This can be a great space for students to feel seen and to see each other, especially in bigger classes where the Brady Bunch gallery view starts to feel more like a crowded yearbook page.
Group discussions won’t work for every classroom. No one knows your class better than you; if your class isn’t ready for this kind of activity, you likely read the last paragraph thinking of all the ways this could go wrong. Even if your class is a good fit for group discussion, it will help to create clear expectations and time frames to encourage your students to stay on task and on topic .
Most students want their teachers to see them, but extroverted students tend to crave this more deeply. It can be hard, in the virtual classroom, to help extroverted students feel seen, so a little extra effort might be needed. Take the time to let your students know you see them with personalized feedback and encouragement. This might come in the form of verbal feedback during class – take a moment to directly acknowledge when a student offers an insightful comment or answers a question correctly. In the classroom, we might just say, “Yes, great!” and move on, but something as small as adding the student’s name to that comment or rephrasing their idea in your reply can make a big difference in a remote learning environment.
You might also find that with some students, a little extra recognition is needed. Try to take note during classes of specific contributions students make, and send a message after class to acknowledge them. It doesn’t have to be an essay; just something quick, like “I thought your observation about Morrison’s use of imagery was very insightful. Thank you!” can make a student feel deeply appreciated and seen. And help to motivate students.
If your class has gone asynchronous in the wake of COVID-19, this is a crucial tool to support your extroverted students. Let them know that, even if you can’t see them literally, you do see them and the work they’re doing. This can be achieved through feedback, whether written or audio or during video conference office hours.
Keep in mind that your classroom is a mix of introverts and extroverts. These suggestions for your extroverted students might sound like torture to your introverted one. For introverted students, the assignments that might peak their anxiety normally, like presentations, are even worse on video. On the other hand, an extrovert who might generally tolerate a quiet journaling moment in an in-class environment might find themselves spinning out in the silence on Zoom. Right now, no one has as many choices as they’re used to, and the limitations can add a lot of strain. Be sure to offer choices to your students as much as possible, maybe more than you would in a physical classroom environment. Giving students a choice between activities will let them focus on learning. And it might be one of the few ways they get to exercise their independence during social distancing.
In a 2007 article, Baruch Offir, Rachel Bezalel, and Ingrid Barth state that “Understanding student-related variables that affect learning also enables faculty to adapt instructions to meet the diverse needs of different students instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to designing distance learning environments.” So choices matter now more than ever.
As educators, remote learning has both positive and negative impacts on students--and now more than ever, building a sense of belonging in your online classroom is critical to student success. We commend you for considering the extroverted student in your online classrooms--and for doing all the work you do to make sure students feel included.