How to Enhance Social Skills in Virtual Classrooms

'Enough of social distancing; you can relearn the art of being social again.' Teaching social skills to a generation who were forced to learn and live by social distancing can be hard. But it's more than inevitable now. Because education is not just about learning new concepts every day, it's about fostering an individual's social, emotional, intellectual and moral skills.

Anyway, the era of virtual learning has officially arrived and is here to stay for longer than we thought. And without the face-to-face interaction and the opportunities for collaboration that in-person schooling provides, it definitely is difficult for students to build their social skills.

Fortunately, there are several activities and strategies that can be used to help students strengthen their social skills, even when learning remotely. In this blog, we'll discuss a few tips and tricks that will help students build their social skills while learning online or virtually.

1.Develop a participatory culture

One of the most important ways to enhance social skills in students in online or virtual learning is to encourage participation in class. And make sure that this participation is wider than the student - teacher interactions. Give students the opportunity to interact with their peers, ask questions, and share ideas among themselves.

Make your classroom a safe space for students to share their thoughts and ideas without any fear of judgement. Encourage open dialogue and respect for everyone's opinions to create a more engaging learning environment.
Also, choose the right tools and resources to assist them in this. For example, say, a virtual whiteboard where students can draw, write and collaborate with their peers, or video conferencing so students can see each other during class discussions, introductory forums, virtual group projects, presentations etc. And focus more on the process than the output, of course.

Here are a few tricks or practices you can use effectively in this direction:

  • Introduction Forums

Have each student introduce themselves in a forum and provide details such as their hobbies, interests, favourite foods, favourite classes, etc. Encourage them to understand their peers better and start conversations with them.

  • Virtual Group Projects and Presentations

Have students work together in small groups on projects. They can use video chat programs to connect and discuss their project, brainstorm ideas, and collaborate.

  • Discussion groups

Encourage students to start online discussion groups where they can share their thoughts and ideas on topics relevant to their coursework.

2.Make Space for Informal Exchanges

It's not just about the virtual alternatives of all those classroom activities. Try giving them time for some leisure as well. Make opportunities for informal conversations, including those that are unmonitored.Some strategies that are worth incorporating into your schedule  Include:

  •  Group games :

Play games like charades or trivia together over video chat. This will give students an opportunity to get to know each other better while having fun. Something as simple as playing an online game with classmates can help develop social skills like teamwork, collaboration, and communication.

  • Social Clubs or Other Extracurricular Activities

Have students start clubs, art projects etc., where they engage in activities they're interested in and discuss them with each other over video chat or in an online forum. Joining a club such as a student council or debate team allows students to practice their communication and problem-solving skills.

  • Celebration of Achievements

Recognize students' accomplishments by celebrating milestones or successes with virtual parties or celebrations.

3.Use technology to your advantage

We usually associate technology with social disconnection and declining social skills. The nuances of nonverbal real-time communications like gestures, body language, facial expressions and cues like eye contact, proximity, touch etc., there's a limit to imitating that in virtual space. But on the flip side, the same technology can be used to aid us in practising prosocial behaviour.

For instance, say, video conferencing or virtual reality immersion techniques. With them, students can engage in face-to-face interactions and learn from each other's facial expressions and body language. Or, say, advanced video modelling- if you've to ease the stress of face-to-face interactions. That is a personalized video showcasing the warranted skills in a controlled environment. Even observing oneself in a recording or mirror or studying and discussing both the desired as well as the inappropriate behaviours of characters in popular mediums like films, television, etc., come in handy. All these can help students communicate more effectively.

4.Teach it so it can be learnt

Another way to help students develop their social skills is to teach them directly. A counsellor can provide insight into how to communicate effectively and interact with peers. They can also help students practice their social skills in a safe environment. Counsellors can teach students how to recognize and understand others' emotions, handle disagreements, and maintain healthy relationships. With that guidance, students can build meaningful connections and develop strong communication skills.
In addition to helping students learn new social skills, a counsellor can also help identify any underlying mental health issues that may be preventing them from communicating effectively. The counsellor can refer the student to a specialist for further assistance if necessary.Anyway, all of this can only be successful with students' cooperation. Encourage them to practice all these in day-to-day classroom activities. Also, give positive feedback so that they feel rewarded.

Blog Summary

Teaching social skills in a virtual classroom can be challenging. But we can still work it out. Check out our latest blog for some tips and tricks!