Engaging the Online Student: 4 effective teaching practices

When I hear teachers talk about why they want to teach online, I often hear things like “I can work from home in my pajamas” or “I won’t have to deal with classroom management anymore.”

While those sentiments may be true, there is much to consider when translating your face-to-face teaching philosophies to a different teaching platform.  Establishing these four effective online teaching practices is essential to the success of the online students as well.

Engaging the learner as soon as possible is important to build a sense of belonging and community in the online course.  It is recommended that before the class begins you should contact the student through emails and phone calls and have discussion forums for students to get to know each other.  This can also be done through digital storytelling so the learners can get to know you and their classmates as real people.

Regular and personalized communication will keep the learners engaged and on pace throughout the course.  High touch can be more important than high-tech.  Just because a course is online does not mean that you should never see or talk to the students.  Phone calls and video calls often help the students make the social and emotional connection to the course.  Personalized and individual feedback is very meaningful to students and helps to keep them engaged in the course.  Response to student correspondence within 24 hours will increase the instructor presence and make the learner feel like a part of a community.

Expectations should be clear and explicit and directions clear and easy to understand.  When students know about what they have to do, realize the tools that they need to get it done and are notified about deadlines, they are more likely to stay on pace and engaged in the course.

External resources can be great tools to supplement the course content and help connect the learner to real life applications on the content.  While there are endless resources that can enhance the course it is also very important to use the technology intentionally.   While new tools, social media and digital communities can be very inviting and enhance the online course, make sure the tool is not driving the decision-making.  It is always a good idea to review the objectives and make sure that the tool is helping you achieve those objectives.

While working in your pajamas does have some benefits, teaching online requires lots of time and dedication to the success of the students.  By fostering student engagement and building rapport in the online classroom, you will ensure a productive and positive experience for the learner.

About the Blogger:
Lynnice Hockaday is a technology analyst for the Cirrus Learn Project at Harris County Department of Education. For the past 20 years, Lynnice has been an educator, curriculum specialist, technology coach and online instructor, and loves helping students and teachers reach outside the classroom walls by engaging and collaborating worldwide through online learning. Lynnice stays very busy outside of work with three active kids and enjoys hiking and biking in her spare time.

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