A lot of attention is being given to the role of the instructor in creating a supportive learning community in the online environment. Since the learners engagement and satisfaction with the online course is tightly connected to the learner’s perception of the role and level of interaction with the instructor, it only adds to the pressure on instructors to continuously find creative activities to foster the engagement and encourage the four types of interaction (student – student, student-instructor, student – content and student-technology).
We all remember feeling anxious at the beginning of any new course. The first questions were not necessarily about the subject and what the curriculum would look like but about who was teaching the course. What was their style, how approachable that person was, how tough the grading and so on. We were actually unconscioulsy looking for clues to understand how the environment for that course will look like and how easy to build a supportive learning community. In the online environment there is more responsibility on the instructor to reveal their personality, set expectations and ensure each student feels welcome and comfortable asking questions.
A few ways I plan to use to establish my online presence as an instructor:
- Post a picture and ask for pictures. The first thing we all tend to do when visiting social media pages is to look at pictures. They give you a quick idea (sometimes biased, it is true) about the person but also adds authenticity. By posting a recent picture of ourselves as well as asking students to post their pictures we bring the same feeling of authenticity and reality from the very beginning of the course.
- Post an introductory video. A short video will reveal more about the personality, sense of humour and style.
- Provide links to social media sites. Students coming from different cultures are more likely to open up and engage with instructors that can prove their formal education and experience. Platforms like LinkedIn are very useful in this regards.
- Maintain a blog. Encourage students to comment, bring arguments on the various topics and engage with the instructor and students.
- Have clear instructions in various formats to match different various learning styles. Written instructions, short videos, audio files or samples of expected assignmnets are just a few ideas.
- Engage weekly with each student through feedback on work presented, replies to comments on discussion boards, quick chats during established “office hours” via Skype, old phones or apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, etc.
- Set up web alerts. Every day there is a new article or research paper or news related to the course content being posted on the internet. By setting up web alerts, we can easily be kept informed with the latest. Sharing the information with the students will not only keep teh course content up to date but will model to students how to connect news to content to real life. For example, in a Job Searching workshop, any news on sectors of industry in demand at the time of the course would be so beneficial.
- Produce a podcast. Just like audio books, podcasts or minia udio lectures can be extremely beneficial for students that prefer the auditory learning style. Also, a short podcast on the role of objectives on resumes, for example, could invite to self reflection.
- University of Victoria Online Academic Community. (2017) Instructor Presence Online https://onlineacademiccommunity.uvic.ca/learnteachtech/2017/09/11/instructor-presence-online/
- Engaging Online Programs.10 Ways to Enhance Online Instructor Presence in Online Programs, Wiley Education Services (2017) retrieved from https://edservices.wiley.com/faculty-engagement-in-online-learning/