“Are you there, prof? It’s me, online student.”
When teaching face-to-face (f2f) classes, engaging our students and letting them know we care about their learning is simple. We show up early for our classes, stay late, offer office hours, look them in the eye and talk to them. Showing up when teaching online courses is as critical to student engagement and success, but takes different strategies.
Here are questions and examples comparing f2f with online contexts to help guide your communication plan, keeping your students engaged throughout the course.
How much student interaction time have you planned each week?
In typical f2f classes, I spend most class time on guided instruction. Through modeling, discussions, project work, and critical reflection, I structure class time to monitor and guide students’ thinking as they master the content. For online courses, I schedule regular time for comparable activities. When teaching three online sections of a course, I block off time as if I taught three f2f courses.
How will your students know you “showed up” for class?
In the syllabus, I let students know where and when to find me online. For example, when I describe discussion board expectations, I let them know how often I check in. I also share what kind of interaction to expect (Post with Intentionality by Peggy Ertmer). When students are working on projects, I set up virtual meeting times with the groups.
How will your students know you noticed when they “showed up?”
This is critical for online student satisfaction and success. Surprisingly, students prefer professors who give short, frequent contact over those who provide less frequent but more in-depth feedback.
Announcements in Blackboard is one of my favorite ways to do this efficiently. For example, “Great job so far on this week’s quiz! Most people got 9 out of 10, with the question on feedback being the most commonly missed.”
When more lengthy feedback is needed, I send a quick email. “Thanks for submitting your paper on time. I will have your feedback ready by the end of the week.”
How can your students informally interact with you, similar to staying after class to continue a conversation?
Semester after semester, feedback from my students ranked virtual meetings as highly valuable. As many students had never participated in virtual meetings before, I always required one early on. This established a more personal relationship with them than text on a page, and encouraged deeper level course questions. Another benefit is peer-to-peer conversations that happen. I offer multiple times
and record sessions for those who can’t attend.
Zoom is my preferred tool as it works on any device and is mobile-friendly. It allows advance scheduling and produces a link to share with your availability. Small cool detail? When someone enters your “Zoom Room” it makes a sound like a doorbell.
Regardless of strategies you choose, effective online teaching requires consistent, substantive, teacher-led interaction with students (HLC correspondence and distance education definitions). Just as in f2f teaching, time spent grading and preparing classroom materials isn’t considered part of teaching time. Fortunately, whether interacting online or f2f, getting to know their students while sharing their passion invigorates faculty year after year!
Being “Present” in Your Online Learning Class, from Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Classes, UC Davis, accessed online 04Sept2018 at https://canvas.ucdavis.edu/courses/34528/pages/being-present-in-your-online-course
Bonk, C. & Khoo (2014) Adding some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ activities for motivating and retaining learners online, Open World Books, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Accessed 07Aug2018 at http://tec-variety.com.
Dixon, M. (2010). Creating effective student engagement in online courses: What do students find engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10:2, pp. 1 – 13.
Kelly, R. (2014) Creating a Sense of Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom, Faculty Focus, accessed online 04Sept2018 at https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/creating-a-sense-of-instructor-presence-in-the-online-classroom/
Types of Regular Effective Contact in Detail, UC Pasadena, accessed online 04Sept2018 at http://online.pasadena.edu/faculty/hb/coursequality/#recdetail