A few tips can help educators make solid connections with online students.
The online classroom poses unique challenges for classroom management and connection with students. Online students might report feelings of loneliness, a lack of connection, and a need for productive social interaction. But an emerging field is beginning to address online students’ need for social connectedness.
The emerging field of study on e-mmediacy addresses online students’ need for social connectedness in the online classroom. Here are five helpful tips to promote successful learning and e-mmediacy in your online classroom:
1. Forge a personal connection by providing a picture or video introduction.
Students are more likely to feel a personal connection to you if you can humanize your virtual persona. For example, Rasmussen College Online has great online faculty bios, which include a headshot and a detailed professional background.
Remember, nonverbal skills that typically give a student cues are missing in the online environment. Use as much sensory stimulation as you can to simulate this type of connection, ensuring a more personalized experience for your students.
2. Enhance your lessons by integrating video clips and other types of media.
Imagine the resources you use residentially, and be creative in the way you translate those ideas into the online classroom environment. Incorporate animation, short clips, presentations, and pictures in your virtual classroom. With the technology that is available today, there is no excuse for a boring online class! Not a whiz with technology? Join a professional association that will allow you to trade best practices with other professionals in training or higher education.
3. Set realistic expectations for response time.
Online students often report feeling lost or abandoned. You should be clear and upfront in your syllabus with regard to response time. Students are far less likely to panic if they know that it might take you up to 48 hours to respond to an inquiry. Most importantly, keep your promises. If you guarantee a 24-hour turnaround on graded assignments, honor that policy consistently.
4. Encourage your students to connect with each other through meaningful discussions.
Design your group discussions to maximize interpersonal communication among your students. Manage an online classroom that promotes a comfortable and safe environment for thoughtful and substantive discussions. Ask questions that motivate online students to connect to one another.
5. Explore interactive communication such as live chats, instant messaging, and online office hours.
Real-time communication gives students a sense of control and connectedness. Whenever possible, use both synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication in your classes. Encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities not just with you as the instructor, but with their fellow classmates in group projects and discussions.
Rebecca M.R. Costello is the campus registrar for Rasmussen College at the Rockford, Ill., campus, where she has also taught Success Strategies and Oral Communication. Her background includes experience in operations management and corporate training. She has a master’s degree in corporate communication from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and has written and lectured on topics such as groupthink, uncertainty reduction and change management, communication competence, effective performance feedback and appraisal, and managing the entitled employee.