Too often we hear talk about teacher-absent online courses, where someone made the decision that the digital curriculum was enough, but is that what we really want? The human touch is so important. When a teacher shows that they care about their students, the student in turn cares about the class. Many times over we have seen students who showed that ‘mean and nasty’ teacher a thing, by failing their course. Student can also rises to the occasion and achieves more than possible because the kind heart of the teacher coached the student to believe in their abilities, grew self-confidence, and pushed them to success.
Keeping the human touch in the online classroom creates a student-centered learning environment and conveys a sense of who the real person is behind the academics. Don’t think that just because your classroom is blended and your students see you on a daily basis, doesn’t mean that you can be absent from the online environment. These strategies are just as important to the fully online arena, as well as the blended learning environment.
- Be seen. Your presence in the online classroom is important. Use video clips to communicate with students (and their parents). Start with a welcome video that shares your passion for the subject. Consider weekly video announcements. Provide assignment feedback in video format, using the student’s name and looking directly into the camera so they feel your presence. The discussion area is a wonderful place to give public praise by quoting students.
- Get to know your students. The first week of any class is tough for both the students and teacher. Take this opportunity to conduct a brief survey. Collect a few tidbits about your students. Ask questions about their favorite class or weekend activities, so you can comment on them later. Don’t forget to share information about yourself. It’s a two way street. They want to know if you have a family and what you do on the weekends too! The survey should ask students how they are feeling about taking your class. This will give you an opportunity to recognize who needs extra help to calm any anxieties or nerves.
- Don’t wait to be asked for help. Be approachable, but know that asking for help is difficult for many and in the online class it’s too easy to hide. Be aware of struggling students. Check in with students individually. Catch them early and provide extra support and guidance. Coach them with positive praise on assignments, so that when the tough times come they know that you care because you set the stage early. Quality assignment feedback is one way to create an opportunity for open dialogue between you and your students. Even when a student has yet to get started on an assignment, pose questions (even if they don’t ask any) to help them to the road of success.
The online learning environment can be distance and isolated if you let it. It also has the potential to create the same, if not a better, personal connection between students and their teacher. In the digital learning environment, every student has a front seat. They have their eyes wide open, looking for your praise, your caring heart, and your support. Use the strategies above to keep the human touch in your online and blended classrooms.