Though it’s understood that a successful class requires a learning environment that engages students, online instructors often struggle to connect with their online students in the same way as they would on–campus students due to heavy workloads and a lack of experience utilizing instructional tools.
The perceived disconnect students feel in the online environment can lead to disengagement in the course, a decrease in their level of learning, and ultimately higher dropout rates from programs. To help your faculty facilitate the “active learning” that satisfies enrolled students, below are eight easy engagement and community building techniques your current and future online faculty can use, and why this level of engagement should be a standard for your online instructors:
1. Post a video introduction.
Your school’s professors wouldn’t walk into a classroom of new students and start teaching without introducing themselves. And yet, many online instructors unintentionally do just that leaving their students feeling disconnected. Enabling student-instructor familiarity by encouraging your faculty to create a short video introduction from a course instructor who warmly introduces themselves and their course, talks about their passion for it, and takes just a moment to outline expectations, sets the example for engagement in the program from the very beginning.
2. Encourage online student introductions.
The most successful online courses work to replicate the social community fostered by in-person education. Your faculty can break through the isolation of online courses and effectively help students build real peer relationships by asking them to provide their own introductions through text and video. Students will learn about each other’s goals, challenges, strengths and weaknesses, offering opportunities for connection so that natural and lasting friendships are formed and students think of their online learning experiences at your institution fondly.
3. Customize the course roster.
The value of face-to-face interaction isn’t diminished because a program is online. Tying a face to a name makes communication more personal and helps students feel connected to each other, the instructor, and the program they’re in. You can ensure this benefit is available by encouraging faculty to have students attach their picture to their name on the course roster and in the discussion forum. Their face will then appear with their “voice” in questions about coursework and opinions about subject matter, creating a stronger sense of community within the classroom.
4. Provide online content “snacks.”
Instructors can connect the dots between curriculum content and real-life when they share links to articles and news stories that expand upon the topics at hand. This increases ongoing value to their online program and motivates students to learn more and immerse themselves in a learning community.
5. Encourage faculty to produce a podcast.
Many students value their instructor’s insights to the topics they’re learning. Encourage your faculty to produce podcasts that showcase their expertise. Through podcasting, instructors can share their thoughts on assignments, exercises, topics of conversations or experiences as they relate to course curriculum or current events. In this way, students broaden their knowledge, deepen their learning, and become familiar with their instructor’s personality. Episodes about career development, work-life balance, and study tips can benefit current learners as well as prospective ones. For more information on how to get started, check out our infographic, The Power of Podcasting in Higher Education Marketing.
6. Post a screencast.
Sometimes, the best way to explain something is in person. Campus professors have no issue displaying what’s on their screens to a physical student, but translating that personal experience across the web can be more of a challenge. Suggest your faculty use technologies like Join.Me and Jing®, which offer interactive options to do things like create a video with audio voice over of a screen as they work through a step-by-step process, take over a student’s computer remotely to see where the disconnect lies, and to have students join a “meeting” where they watch a live demonstration. With screencasts, your students can easily see and understand the learning objective, and everyone will save hours of time emailing.
7. Post unit summaries.
Online students learn at different times of the day and at different rates of speed. To bring everyone back together at the end of a module, encourage faculty to create a summary post, which serves as an opportunity to bring discussions to a close by tackling common misconceptions, highlighting remaining open questions, and reinforcing the knowledge students need to retain as they continue through the course.
8. Enable faculty to simulate a live discussion.
The thrill of interaction between faculty and students in the classroom is highly engaging. Recreating that level of involvement and intensity online can be done with VoiceThread. With it, faculty can replicate the synchronous environment of classroom conversation and debates, providing more robust peer interaction and a richer online experience.