In general, effective teaching requires that faculty be present with their students. When faculty are teaching in-person they don’t leave their students. In fact, in a traditional classroom setting faculty engage their students in a number of ways. For example, by answering questions, offering explanations, asking questions, providing leadership and guiding them through the course. Many faculty may arrive early to get ready for class and even stay afterwards to talk 1:1 with students who may need extra support. The bottom line is, these faculty are present and available to their students.
For many faculty who began their careers in traditional classrooms and have made the transition to online courses, being present in the class has been a challenge. Without a regular block of time to meet students in the classroom, prepare content and review student work many faculty may go several days without being present in a class.
A colleague of mine shared a simple suggestion for faculty that may be looking for opportunities to be more present in their online classes. This suggestion was to create a very basic calendar and consider how many hours a week is spent teaching them in person course. Perhaps it’s 10 to 15 hours a week if combining actual in-person classroom time with the time that’s needed for preparing content and grading assignments.
The idea here is to schedule the same amount of time to be present and engaged in the online class. Here are some tips that will help faculty be more present in their online courses:
Weekly announcements – this is a great way to provide an overview of what is expected during the week. This can be done in a couple different ways including a basic email or an informal video. For faculty that are comfortable with an informal video, a video of 1 to 2 minutes is suggested.
Response time – clearly articulate at the beginning of the class and during every weekly announcements that any questions that are received via email or through a question and answer discussion area will be replied to in a specified time frame. Most faculty report that they are comfortable responding to students in 24-36 hours.
Availability – holding regular Office hours and scheduling Time with students by appointment are both going to let students know that you’re available and willing to help if need be.
Discussions – be involved, engaged and talk with students in discussion forums available in the class. This is critical when working with students who have never participated and online class previously. Many faculty members make the mistake of assigning discussion items without clearly explaining or modeling what the expectations are.
Something to consider…faculty who self-report being more present and engaged in their online classes, also report having students who are more present and engaged in the class.