How Could No Interaction With The Teacher Affect Learning In Online Classes

Coursera has a new study that explores the extent to which teachers have an impact on student learning in online classrooms.

The quality of the online educational experience—across all platforms—has increased significantly in recent years, but one of the biggest challenges still remains: how do students make meaningful, long-term connections with the people behind the learning?

One method educators can use is to have students visit a classroom before or after taking a class. This act can provide students with insight into how their peers feel about the instructor, as well as generate a sense of community between student and teacher.

However, there is one potential problem: It’s not exactly an ideal way to engage in an online course. For online learners, students traveling to classes can quickly tire out and lead to few connections between student and teacher. In particular, these remote classes are especially challenging because students don’t have as much time to focus on key learning goals when they don’t have someone with whom to bond.

So how can students have meaningful, long-term connections with the people behind their course-taking? In order to make the best use of a student’s interaction with an instructor, here are a few ways online students can engage with their instructor before and after an online class.

(Note: This article was updated on Feb. 14, 2019 to reflect that new timeslots haven’t changed the process of faculty having their recordings sent to students. As of February 2019, no students have reported experiencing this issue.)

Ask questions

Whether they’re on Twitter or while cruising the interwebs, faculty members often give great and thoughtful answers to important questions that often go unanswered. To help deepen student engagement with faculty, it’s a good idea to send class lectures or readings as PDF files to students who may not have a computer at home or their own smartphone.

As these PDF files are sent and students add notes and comments on them, students will have a better opportunity to hear firsthand from their teacher about the content. This way, students can get an even better feel for what the instructor is interested in, and in turn, they’ll be better equipped to communicate that interest to the instructor and have an even deeper discussion about what they’re learning.

Demonstrate caring

In each and every class a teacher teaches, they’ll often encounter students who do or do not show up, slow or rapid learning, or various other ways in which they may have struggled in their class. The best way for a teacher to recognize how some students are struggling and how to support them is to make a concerted effort to get to know them before and after class.

A good start is to talk to students before or after class, which will give students insight into what their course content is and how it affects them. Students may not know their classmates outside of class or may not have come across their favorite professor or have any previous interactions with the instructor. Sending emails or even drawings can help open up the students to the teacher and help students show their appreciation.

As student attention in online courses is fleeting, every little bit of face-to-face interaction a student has with a faculty member can go a long way toward helping them learn.

Follow up

Once students are able to fill their notebooks with notes from courses they’ve taken or reviewed, it’s often time to seek their college admissions adviser’s help.

Filling out the admission form may seem intimidating, but it can be difficult for prospective students to get through it without the support of a university. The biggest mistake students often make in completing their online application is that they don’t complete their personal statement or their goals for the future. Because this crucial information is largely dependent on the previous class information that students provided—a project, schoolwork or knowledge they received—a student who consistently demonstrates an interest in this information and is willing to fill out this form more consistently will demonstrate that they have met their part of the process.

Demonstrating an interest in the learning they’ve participated in can also help students like them when they apply to study abroad programs or try out for an internship abroad. Not only will it be helpful for a student to feel supported, but it will also reveal their interest in furthering their education and dedication to continuing their education.

(Zachary Gordon is a writer and visual artist currently studying graphic design at Buffalo State College and receives support from BUILD: Bridging East-West Diversity Education, a project of Buffalo Public Schools, the Binghamton University Research and Learning Center, and Western New York Opportunities for Girls Inc.)

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