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    Communicate with your Students.
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Teach Online:
Communicate with your Students.

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Communication is Key

Know your learners. Whether you are teaching online because of an emergency, because you have been asked to, or because you want to, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the learners who will be taking your online course. Taking their perspective from the outset will help you consider them in the decisions you make in how you choose to design and teach your course online.

Take a moment to consider learner needs and circumstances before the course begins to check your assumptions and guide your decision making about course design and delivery.

1. Especially in a shift to remote instruction in times of emergency consider Sending an Email to Check on their Well-Being and Circumstances (Maslow’s before Bloom’s)

  • Ask how they are/how they have been.
    • Do they have access to sufficient food/water/sleep?
    • Do they have safe living conditions, sufficient resources to maintain themselves and their health?
    • Do they have a good support system at home?
    • Do they have a safe quiet place to “attend” class?
    • Do they have competing life priorities?
      • Caring for children, siblings, parents, grandparents.
      • A job.
      • Illness.
  • Do they have access to the internet in their home?
    • Do they have any access limitations? (e.g., time constraints, do they have to share/are others using their device, limited data plan, stable electric and internet connectivity, not reliable or high speed, have to drive to the library and sit in parking lot for access, etc.)
    • Ask them how/when they primarily plan access your course (with what device/days/times), and to let you know if they have any problems.
  • Do they have preferences for synchronous online or asynchronous online course activities.
    • Preferences for day/time of day for course activities and due dates.
  • Ask them for their preferred name/pronoun. Give them yours.

2. Consider options and the need for regular communications with learners before and after the course begins. What Communications & Announcements Can You Envision/Plan?

Think of regular whole class and private communications as an essential activity in your role as a remote/online instructor. Messages, announcements, course/email are a primary way you make your social and teaching presences felt by course participants. Digital communications promote trust, group cohesion, interaction, and a sense of community.

  • What types of communications will your learners need, and when – before, during and after the course?
  • Can you draft/prepare any of them to have them ready?
  • Getting Started – 2 weeks before the course begins/goes live download your roster and send a note.
  • Draft a Welcome message to send as each learner appears in the course.

Post an opening announcement for learners to see as they enter the course.

  • Draft Announcements for the opening of each course module.
  • Draft weekly announcements for the other weeks, to reinforce activities, participation, due dates, etc.
  • Mid semester send course participants an encouraging personalized private note on their progress in the course, to make sure they feel your presence.
  • End the course with a farewell email to bring closure to the experience for all course participants.

3. Consider how will you meet with learners to conduct office hours.

Set Up Virtual Office Hours. You can use synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both approaches for your office hours. The most important thing is to make sure that your learners know how to reach you, when, and by what means. Make sure that you provide  clear information regarding the options and expectations pertaining to your virtual office hours.

  • Use synchronous office hours to check-in with the learners on their progress in the course/with projects, provide feedback on work/progress, provide the option for drop-in or scheduled appointments for students to get extra help, or to discuss issues privately with you, etc. With synchronous platforms (e.g., Zoom, Collaborate, etc.) you can use the text chat, audio, and video features to talk one-on-one with your learners. These synchronous platforms have features such as a whiteboard, and have screen sharing capability, so you and/or the learner can view materials, share images, or draw diagrams. You can also use the session to provide private critique of student work, or listen to a student oral presentation or demonstration.
  • You can use email, or use the asynchronous private communications tools within your LMS to have private conversations with your learners.
    • Provide and promote detailed instructions on how to reach you.
    • Establish a regular schedule in advance.
    • Document expectations on response time and the process they should follow to set up an appointment with you, including the process for cancellation.
    •  Keep the schedule and be on time.



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