Keeping Students Close in an Online Classroom

Do you miss being with your students in a regular classroom? When they come into the classroom, we see how they’re doing.

 We let them know that they matter to us, and have personal conversations with them. 

We use those regular contacts to build and maintain good relationships with them and track their progress

But when our classes meet online, we lose those “eyes-on” opportunities to connect, and a big part of our supportive role can fall apart – all because of the lack of regular face-to-face interactions. 

If our classes meet synchronously (everyone meeting online at the same time) or if we are teaching a hybrid course (some students online and some in person), we still have some of those venues. 

But if we have an asynchronous class (students only work on their own with no class meetings) or even a partially asynchronous class, we lose even more opportunities. Whichever type of online course we teach, we need to make some basic changes in our teaching habits to make up for the loss.

 

  • Connect Directly: We must be more intentional in letting students know we want to connect with them. Online we can use communication apps like email, texting, and video chat, and interactive apps like Microsoft’s OneNote and FlipGrid to connect with students. This means that we need to change some of our usual preparation and workflow routines.
  • Connect in Multiple Ways. Choose two or three ways to reach out to your students. Can you send each of them a personal e-mail regularly? A text or video message
  • Connect on a Schedule. When will you reach out to them, and how often will you do it? If you have several options, try to use all of them at regular intervals.
  • Connect Personally. Address each student personally and share some encouragement and some individualized feedback. Keep your tone warm and friendly. You want them to want to respond to you. 
  • Respond Promptly. When a student contacts you or sends in an assignment, try to reply as quickly as possible. Your prompt response will let them know that they are important to you.

About the Author

Pam Everly has been an instructor at Wright State University in Ohio for 5 years, where she earned her MATESOL at age 62! 

She also holds a B.A. in Teaching of Russian from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.A. in Gifted and Talented Education from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs along with teaching certifications in English Language Arts and Reading. 

She has taught students of all ages in a variety of public and private settings, including 6 years as a homeschooler. She has helped with the development of ISP curriculum materials. 

Teachers, if you have discovered some successful ideas for connecting to students in online courses, please share with us!

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