Many faculty that enjoy teaching in-person report that they like to interact with students, share their experiences, passion for their field and be present when understanding takes place with their students. Faculty will often feed off of the energy from their students during classes that take place in a traditional in-person setting.
With online classes faculty may lose some of these built-in opportunities to connect with their students. This is starting to change. However, the primary vehicle for communication and online courses is still written, in one form or another. Presenting students with just a page of text can create high levels of anxiety and do very little to motivate students. How can we make this more personal and enjoyable for students and for faculty.
Video is a great option to deliver messages, lectures and class expectations to students in an online course. The best practice is to simply do what you would do in-person, just be authentic. In other words, You Do You.
It will be difficult to avoid using any written content and an online course. The goal is to try to use your own unique voice in the course. Consider this for any lectures, course tours, lesson tours, assignment tours, answers to questions and weekly announcements. Here are a few things to consider in your online courses:
Support – when writing to your students, be supportive. For example, rather than say “You won’t pass the class if you skip the quizzes”. An alternative here may be saying something such as “Thank you for all of your hard work in this class. I know it can be tough to juggle online courses with other responsibilities. Don’t forget to take all the quizzes to help you be successful. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns. Looking forward to your future contributions. Thank you”.
Be Yourself – sometimes the obvious distance between the faculty member in the student and online courses comes across via written communications. Don’t add to this inadvertently, be mindful of your tone. Use a sense of urgency. For example at the end of your instructions you might consider using something such as: “please reach out to me at any time with questions or comments of any nature related to this assignment. You can do this!” This will come across as being much more supportive than: “Questions – use the Q&A discussion forum.”
A great way to bring your presence into an online class is to simply record yourself. This could be as simple as an audio recording, an informal video recording, or a more professionally done video created in a fully functional media studio. Your understanding of their needs will come across better using this type of technology rather than written communications. The audio and video recordings do not have to be professional. Many faculty will simply use a handheld smartphone to capture their thoughts in the moment and quickly share that recording to the LMS or video server if one is available.
Your online students will appreciate seeing you or at least hearing your voice as you talk about the content within the course. Many students have reported that they enjoy the informal nature of recordings as opposed to the highly rehearsed videos created in a fully functioning media studio. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or allow a pet or child into the room while videos are being created. This simply lets your students know a little bit more about you as a person and helps to build rapport which ultimately leads to retention. The goal is to simply find ways to be yourself in an online class using technology just as you would do you in a traditional in-person classroom.