Whether you are a seasoned veteran to online teaching or you are about to embark upon teaching your first online course, one of the most important aspects of any online course is the perception that students have of your level involvement in the course.
For most professors, managing student perception in an on-ground course is far more natural. You’re there, you can be seen, heard, and interact face-to-face with your students. What about online? How do you reassure your class that there is a living, breathing person on the other side of the computer screen who has an active interest in their learning? Here are a few tips offered by seasoned online veterans
Just like the first day of an on-ground, it is important to introduce the course, expected course outcomes, and a brief introduction of yourself. Be sure to add a little color and personality to reinforce the presence of an actual person. Many have found recording a short audio or video introduction really helps establish rapport, sets the tone for the course, and helps to put students’ minds at ease.
Since the primary mode of communication in most online courses is through the discussion forums, it is important that your students know you are actively facilitating the discussions. Effectively facilitating discussions calls for you to review student posts daily, pose additional questions that deepen their discussion, and summarizing key points at the end of the discussion. If you simply let the discussion run on auto-pilot, your students will sense your disinterest, and lose interest themselves. Be on board and active to keep them engaged!
Prompt response to your students’ email messages is crucial as well. If students have to wait days for a reply to a question, they will likely become discouraged. In your first day handout, make your email reply policies clear. Can they expect a response within 4-6 hours? 12 hours? 24 hours? Either way, it helps to establish a structured schedule so students can plan accordingly.
Frequent course updates and announcements let students know that you’re always around.
Some professors are turning to social media, utilizing sites like Twitter, Google + and Facebook to remain connected. You can create a dedicated group on Facebook specifically for your course which is not publicly searchable and doesn’t require you to friend every one of your students.
Maintain Offline Time
Being present in your online course does not mean you have to be available 24/7. That’s a sure-fire road to burnout; and riding herd on your students isn’t good either. It is important to strike a good balance – be present and allow your students to engage with each other. Know when to step back. Facilitate discussions, don’t direct them. Set clearly defined expectations for the level of student participation required.
Try thinking of your course as more of an online learning community with a common goal, and you placed squarely in the center as a mediator, facilitator, coach and guide.
How do you create an online presence in your online course? How do you “humanize” the learning experience? Please put your thoughts in the comments below.