Perhaps the most essential part of learning online is connecting with and encouraging online students. Merely copying and pasting the course content into a learning management system cannot be the extent of online course development. Encouragement can come in many forms, including positive feedback on assignments, emails, phone calls, and video messages. To encourage online learners, teachers can create short video messages that can be used to help students persevere through academic and personal challenges. Topics are unlimited, but professional challenges and funny stories are a good place to start.
Sharing stories with students can help create a bridge that often doesn’t develop automatically online. The lessons shared in the videos can also create opportunities to mentor students as they juggle their academic and personal responsibilities, as well as foster authenticity, creativity, and community in online courses. Here is a bit more about each of these points.
1. Authenticity: The connection formed between teachers and students can help students persist, particularly when they feel like they have someone they can approach with problems. Teachers need to be able to encourage, motivate, and nurture students, even in online classrooms. Video messages can help make teachers more relatable, and transparency allows the students to know that they are cared for. Authenticity sends a message that the teacher is knowledgeable about the course content, and that the student can trust their teacher.
2. Creativity: Teachers can add creativity to their courses by creating a welcome video using YouTube, Vimeo, or Powtoon. The video can include family pictures, vacations, hobbies, favorite mementos, and anything else that can help students get to know their instructor as a person a little better. Other ideas could be creating an ongoing inside joke or making videos in interesting places–anything to engage students and be creative.
3. Community: While video messages should not a course assignment, students can still use class discussion forums to share what they learned from and liked about each video. Let them use this space to encourage other students, share struggles, and offer words of wisdom to empower one another. A sense of community allows students to feel connected, not only to their instructors and classmates, but also to the course content.
As distance education continues to evolve, we cannot forget the power of encouraging online students. Learning should still be fun. By incorporating encouragement into online courses, teachers can make meaningful connections with their students.
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