Online courses can often feel like a lonely place due to the lack of presence of the instructor and other students. This lack of presence can have a negative effect on learning and lead to lower retention levels. Feedback is an essential way to create presence. Feedback can be offered in many different ways. Here are a few things that we can do to help add a human feeling to online courses by using feedback:
Discussions – instructors should participate in the online discussions at least once a week to let students know that they are there, yet being careful not to take over or steer the conversations. Simply provide feedback and ask open ended questions.
Email – send individual student emails to complement them and comment on their work. A simple question such as “How are you doing?” can go along way.
Announcements – as you find relevant resources during the course provide a link in the announcements section of the course. Additionally add a sentence or two that ties this resource back to the course content. This provides a clear indication that the instructor is active in the course.
Surveys – adding surveys or polls can add a human element to the course. For example, a strategy that I have used in the past is the one-minute survey that simply asked two questions. The first question is “What is being done well in the course?” and the second question is “How can the course be improved?”
Icebreaker – at the beginning of the course you present some type of icebreaker activity to gather student information that will be useful later in the course. For example, what are the students work experiences? Have they created a portfolio? What would they like to do in the future? These questions not only make the online course more personal it also values them as individuals by recognizing their experience.