Students who are learning remotely during a disruption may become more easily isolated and disconnected from their instructors and their peers. They may need more support, feedback and communication from you as well as each other. How can you build a supportive learning environment that keeps students engaged and motivated to participate and learn?
1. Reach out to students who are struggling.
In addition to providing encouragement, suggesting resources and being available to answer student questions, consider reaching out to students who have lower participation or performance. A positive, encouraging email from you could make a significant difference for a student who is struggling.
2. Communicate with your students and demonstrate your presence often throughout the course.
Keep students informed regarding expectations, content delivery, assessments and when they can expect feedback. Frequently share the same information in multiple ways and through multiple means. Maintain your “presence” in the course by being yourself (appropriately using humor and self disclosure) through videos, narrated presentations, photos, feedback (audio and text), check-ins, office hours (via phone or web conferencing) and regular course announcements.
Scheduling virtual hours with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
Creating video and audio in Kaltura
Creating videos in Canvas
Creating narrated presentations
Recording audio in Canvas
3. Encourage students to communicate and engage with one another.
Support connection among students through meaningful opportunities to communicate and collaborate. They can share ideas and experiences using small group work, projects, interactive activities and discussions. Consider creating a question-and-answer forum for general questions, and/or a separate forum (“Online Cafe”) to share personal information they are willing to share to connect with each other (how remote learning is going and info on pets, family, etc.). Recognize different communication styles that may be rooted, in part, in students’ cultural backgrounds.
Pedagogical uses of web conferencing
Online Discussions strategies and tips
Tips for online discussion
Communication and participation strategies and tips
Cross-Cultural Group Work (University of Michigan)
4. Be flexible, but remain consistent.
Provide multiple ways students can participate by including asynchronous methods, making content available in small chunks and providing alternative forms of assessment. Exercise understanding and fairness when a student misses a deadline or needs extra time for an assignment. Be consistent about the timing of announcements, assignment due-dates and synchronous meetings.
- Recognizing and Addressing Cultural Variations in the Classroom – A Guide for Faculty (Carnegie Mellon)
- Six tips for creating engaging video (Temple University)
Dixson, M. D. (2010). Creating Effective Student Engagement in Online Courses: What Do Students Find Engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2), 1–13.