“The only “course design” element that significantly and positively influences grades is quality instructor-student interactions. According to students, quality = an instructor who cares.”
This is according to research conducted on online community college students and cited by Michelle Pacansky Brock in her Pocket PD Guide: Humanizing.
Live virtual meetings in an online class go a long way toward building teacher-student relationships. Live video meetings can reduce the sense of isolation that many students feel in online courses. These meetings can be text-based chats, but video is much better for building community and increasing a sense of presence.
Your students want to know that you are human just like them. Interactions where they can see you or hear you increase the idea that you are real and student’s aren’t just ‘teaching themselves’ from videos and text.
How to Use Live Online Meetings
Consider scheduling regular live virtual meetings with your students. You might structure a live virtual meeting like this: a short Q & A on previous material, an extension of the material by the instructor, and an opportunity for students to do live activities, especially with each other. Record these sessions so that students who didn’t have the opportunity to attend live still get the benefit of the content.
These meetings can have a small amount of time for Q & A on posted material, but they shouldn’t be a rehash of all the lessons the students did on their own. This time is more valuable than that. If you spend most of the time going over information the students went over themselves, you may find attendance dropping at the next live meeting.
The Instructor Comes Alive
These live sessions are valuable for increasing the student perception that you, the instructor, are the expert on this content. This is an opportunity for you to share information that isn’t in the course material.
Another good way to introduce material that isn’t in the course is to bring in a guest speaker to the live events. This can enrich your course and make your job a little easier.
Student Interaction Thrives
Whenever possible, do a live group activity where students get to work with each other. If you have an option for breakout rooms in your meeting platform, use it! If you don’t have that access, then get creative with online tools. You can have students work in small groups over a collaborative tool, like a slide deck or a whiteboard. Give students a question or problem to work through, set a time limit, and let them work with each other. When the whole group re-convenes, have a group member from each share their main points.
Another example of how you can have students interact is to ask a question to the whole group and ask students to pause and write their answer. Once you’ve given them a moment to think and write, you can ask them to put their answer or the gist of it in the text chat. This gives all students a chance to see their classmates’ responses. You can review the responses and use them as talking points. This also gives you insight into your students’ thinking. It allows you to address any misconceptions before they derail a student’s learning.
These group activities have major benefits. They give the students a chance to feel as if they are part of a group, lessening the sense of isolation many online students feel. They also make the sessions more interactive and give a compelling reason for students to attend live rather than waiting for the recording.
Why Use Live Online Meetings?
A sense of presence is important in making students feel like they aren’t alone. While there are many ways for instructors to increase their sense of presence in an online course, live interactions provide a high return. Students want to feel like their instructor is nearby, just a question away.
This activity works well in a paced course where everyone is moving through the material together. Regular live meetings keep engagement high and motivate students to persist.
The key point I want you to take from this post is that you can use live chats to increase student engagement, sense of presence, and community connection. The chats should include a small percentage of time on Q & A for covered material, more time with the instructor extending the learning, and a way for students to engage with each other.
Now it’s your turn. Think about your online course or one you’re developing. Outline three live sessions and include the following points. 1) What material was just covered, so you know what the Q & A might be like. 2) What extension to that material you can offer. 3) And what activity you might be able to do with students to deepen the learning. So your three live sessions outlines will have three bullet points each.
Then share one outline in the comments. Be sure to give some context so that we can give good feedback. Review other comments and offer feedback as you see a need. I look forward to reading your comments.
Download my free ebook, Online Course Creation Made Easy: 25 Activities to Engage Your Online Learner
Other posts you might be interested in are:
- Reflecting for Meaning
- How Building Community In An Online Course Skyrockets Learner Success – Part 1
- How Building Community In An Online Course Skyrockets Learner Success – Part 2
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