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how do you make individualized connections to your students via online learning?

How do you make individualized connections to your students via online learning?

Qualified online teachers stress that online teaching is less about the mechanics of distance education and much more about establishing an effective education experience – irrespective of the place and time of teaching. However, for many online teachers, getting acquainted with their students is a huge challenge. This commonly happens when an online class comprises of more than 20 students at once. So if the course is 100% online, with no face-to-face interactions, then how would you establish personal connections? Well, there are a number of proven ways to work around the problem. In this article, we pulled up some of them for your assistance, so let’s just discuss them

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Member of the Board, Raccoon Gang

Sergiy has 18 years of experience in eLearning and management. Creating educational programs, career paths, online and offline courses he is making the educational world better as a co-founder of RG.

How do you make individualized connections to your students via online learning?

The Importance of Establishing Strong Connections with Online Students

For an online teacher, establishing a strong connection with the students is important because they have no visual on the latter. While a few of the students in the class do most of the talking, the rest of them may remain quiet.  

Hence, it becomes really hard for the online teacher to ascertain which student is doing other work, sleeping, unable to understand course outline, or absent altogether. This happens, when an online learning course fails to incorporate an important learning key, i.e., individualized connection with the teacher.

Moreover, in the absence of meaningful interaction with the instructor, learners can get disoriented and may feel disconnected. This makes them demotivated and they start to lose interest in the learning course.

Distance education instructions must be highly organized. Plan ahead and establish strong communication with the learners. They must be accessible to the learners, play the role of facilitator, work in teams whenever possible and mentor during their interactions with the students. - Ragan, L.C. – Good Teaching is Good Teaching

So if the course is 100% online, with no face-to-face interactions, then how would you establish personal connections? Well, there are a number of proven ways to work around the problem. In this article, we pulled up some of them for your assistance, so let’s just discuss them in detail.

Introduce yourself

Establish a sense of interaction and connection between the students and yourself by arranging an introductory discussion. Try to create this session by motivating discussion in terms of educational and personal goals of students, their common interests, and other extra qualities.

You can start by posting a short biography of yourself. This may include the education, background, interests and your latest photo. This will make the students feel that you are a leading instructor and they will use your introduction as a starting guide to posting information about themselves.

This is one of the most effective ways to engage the students in a classroom environment and to know their interests. For this, you may take the help of PollEverywhere or Google Forms to survey students with regards to their academic inclinations, interests and background info. Another good idea is to assign a specific section on your course website for posting pictures and brief bios of all of your students.

Or better yet, request your students to develop a personal and quick mood board. For this, you can ask them to use several available online mood board tools.

Humanize your course

One of the most effective ways to maximize the individual connections and to increase the potential of eLearning is to humanize your course. When we say humanize the course, we mean to make it more interactive.

A humanized course is more likely to develop a relationship with the students and this can be achieved in the following ways:

Leverage online discussions

Try to provide the learners with a discussion platform. Having an online discussion board helps in connecting with peers, learners and in receiving invaluable feedback. For this, your best option is to go with a familiar social media platform - the one which is comfortably accessible by the students. Moreover, you can use the discussion boards’ tool, or maybe you can create Google, Facebook or Twitter groups and invite your students to become members.

However, if you want to expand your conversation platform further, you can try using the tools such as Stride or Slack and create your personal professional networking platform.

Enrich Multimedia with Personalization

Multimedia incorporated courses enable the different types of students to meet their individual learning needs. Different students have different learning styles, so the best way to provide them with suitable learning resources is through multimedia. For this, you may use YouTube and help the visual learners with online videos. Similarly; provide a podcast for auditory learners and interactive games for tactile learners.

However, if you wish to get the interactive and accurate feedback you should create video updates and video announcements of learning course. According to Josh Murdock who is a famous instructional designer at Valencia College in Florida, students feel more connected if you provide them a learning video each week. This video may include:

  • Discussion regarding upcoming week’s assignments and its particular details. Also, best practices and questions from students in terms of various assignments.

  • Discussion about the learnings of the previous week or any information which needs any reminder or some sort of encouragement.

  • Additional information to the main content: some industry-based tips and tricks.

  • You could create a live learning broadcast through VoiceThread, where students can interact with you and fellow students during translation.

All of this will help in keeping your multimedia course interesting and it will also help in improving your learner’s experience.

Create cooperative learning

This teaching technique is an excellent way to increase the motivation of students to learn and to make them more organized. Cooperative learning sometimes also called small-group learning. In this instructional strategy, a small group of students works together on a common project or task.

Hence, the ownership of learning and teaching is shared by the group of students. This provides students with much more opportunities to actively participate in their learning, in asking questions and challenging each other. Moreover, students get a better chance to share and discuss their ideas openly and to internalize their learning.

If you structure the activities carefully, you can significantly help the students in learning the skills which are required to successfully work together. These structured discussions also help in avoiding conflicts.  

Another way to avoid these conflicts is to encourage the students to communicate with each other through more meaningful discussions. For this, you must design your discussions which would capitalize on interpersonal communication among the learners. Also, manage the classroom in a way that would promote a safe and comfortable platform for substantive and thoughtful discussions – including questions to give rise to result-oriented arguments.

Create a choice option

Nothing could be more engaging than allowing a person to become a part of decision making process. While this is a common practice in the business world to make employees feel engaged, the same is also effective in building a more strong connection with online students. So let your students participate in decision making.

For instance, give them a chance to choose the projects which they are about to do or the particular topics which you will be discussing in a special lecture. You can make as many variations in this technique of engagement as you like, but the most important aspect is to enable them to feel they are an actual part of eLearning course and the overall teaching platform. To make this happen, you may use SurveyMonkey to learn about students’ opinion or you may just add some grades to your eLearning course. Moreover, if you do have Slack, you could also use Polly app for your survey solutions.

Enable interactive communication

The easiest way to promote interaction is to enable interactive communication. This may include instant messaging or live chats. Real-time communication platform develops a sense of connectedness and control amongst the students. So whenever possible, try both asynchronous and synchronous forms of communication with your students.

Encourage the learners to make the most of this interactive communication platform, not just to interact with the instructor but also with their other classmates, with regards to their project discussions or group projects.

However, in some cases, you might not need to connect with everyone at once or in the same way. Throughout the whole academic experience, there will be many occasions in which you will have to build individual connections with your students through direct communication. This is also a great way to check-in with one of your students who seem to remain away, missing assignments or has been having no recent activity in the eLearning course. One of the Illinois Online Network’s tips also suggests that the faculty should not be afraid to raise an email to their student and ask him/her if anything might be disturbing or interfering in his/her course participation.

Find your student reward

Rewards are the great way to keep the learners motivated. It helps them in engaging more with the course, helping them in taking interest in the learning. Since people appreciate rewards, a lot of educators make the most of rewards systems to draw the attention of students enrolled in their eLearning course. These rewards can be offered against many project completions or group activities.

Similarly, these activities and rewards may be timed challenges or simply to reach an achievement level. Another way to engage the students, is to take the their opinion in deciding the prize.

A reward for completing the course or an activity will motivate students to put maximum effort in learning and they will always remain connected to you through course objectives.

The bottom line

As an educator, it is important to understand that every student should have the best learning experience that could possibly be offered in the course. To achieve this, the students must have the sense that the instructor is always ‘there’ and not ‘missing in action’.

For this, you will have to respond them in a timely manner in terms of their questions and concerns. It also means to show your presence by participating in online discussions and giving students timely feedback on their comments and work. Also, keep the course outline consistent with the received feedback and make changes to the course mid-stream to incorporate the feedback received from the student through various communication channels.

Hence, if you wish to develop a strong connection with your students via online learning, then you must take into consideration the above-mentioned suggestions. Moreover, if you keep up frequent communication with your students, all above suggestions will work in your learning process.

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