Relationships are complex. There are multiple ways to build and strengthen them, both online and offline.
What Is The Same In Online And Face To Face Learning
In my decades of teaching friends and colleagues about first class activities (FCE), I’ve learned something subtle and important about each opportunity. My friends, unlike my students, have two options when it comes to First Class: online or face to face.
My students sit in front of their computers. They tend to shy away from face to face learning, because they typically prefer online or “video in-person learning.” I encourage them to think about the communication dynamic when they are there. Are they comfortable with an older, more experienced teacher? How is that interaction going?
Similarly, some friends who have experienced the wonderful first class learning experiences in a building, often shy away from face to face, from listening to another individual’s ideas, from seeing an event in its totality. Of course I encourage them to try to engage more face to face, but often that’s an option that doesn’t seem so thrilling as an online or videoconferencing experience.
I’ve noticed this subtle distinction among teaching situations, of which video in person and online are only two examples. In my 30+ years as a teacher and educator, I’ve observed a few other teaching situations.
1. Will my students or potential students be awkward if I ask them to do something? In my experience, many face to face classroom experiences involve several interactions between me and my students. The teachers really enjoy them. Most have a good time. But there may be an awkward moment in which my students must make a decision between following the teacher’s wishes and building up a sense of independence. I’ve also noticed that many online teachers like their students to participate in the discussion, so they generally engage the students in the discussion. That’s a nice option, because face to face teaching really means a couple of individuals meeting face to face.
2. At an event, will you bring your phone to the table and look at it? When I was in my first teaching job, it didn’t make sense to “walk around with my phone in my hand.” It didn’t work well, and I didn’t take much advantage of it. The only student who ever engaged me with an impromptu phone call was this one incredibly shy, yet very intelligent girl who was talking about a science lesson for her first class. It was the only class conversation we ever had.
3. At the end of the day will you want to hear me tell a story about my day? When my students or prospective students go online to learn (there are quite a few online student learning programs), it never surprises me to hear them ask me for an assignment. Do they always book online courses for themselves? Not always. In some cases, they ask the teacher to go back into a lesson that they have reviewed, to see if we can add something or to suggest something we are not sure about. They make the extra effort to talk to a teacher. That might be an option for them.
There is a conundrum though. Do they share that experience with their students or will they stick to their own story?
It’s easy to see why either option makes sense. In a face to face scenario, students feel free to share their experiences and ideas with someone they are connected to. But in the online model, they don’t have to share. It is possible to have a great online teaching experience, if you allow others to participate. For that reason, it’s wise to find a way to bring those ideas to your students.