20 Encouraging Communication in an Online Class

A photo of Beth Brunk-Chavez
Figure 20.1: Beth Brunk-Chavez

Beth Brunk-Chavez

Those of us who haven’t taught online before often assume that unless we can see our students’ faces, we can’t connect with them. Although it’s true that some people require a physical presence to feel genuinely connected, there are many ways to bond with students online – and it all starts with the instructor.

The best way to encourage engagement and connection in an online class is to be present yourself. Of course we show up to our face-to-face classes, and I assume we smile (at least a little) while we are there. I’m sure that we praise students for good responses and high-quality work, and I’m equally sure that we provide them with encouraging feedback when their work misses the mark.

An instructor who is seldom present in an online class doesn’t encourage students to be present either.

Is this to say that the instructor has to be available 24/7, as we often hear about online classes? Absolutely not! As long as you have a communication plan for the class, let students know what it is, and stick to it, students will know what to expect from you and when.We need to do the same in online classes. Whether in writing, videos, or audio clips, whether directed toward individual students, groups, or the entire class, the instructor is responsible for setting the standard by checking in and commenting frequently and by providing encouraging feedback. Keep the students engaged and checking back into the class by giving them reasons to do so. An instructor who is seldom present in an online class doesn’t encourage students to be present either. And then no one is communicating with one another.

You might surprise yourself and your students with the connections you are able to create. As one student recently commented at the end of an online class, “Even though I have never seen or met you in person, thanks for making my first online class so enjoyable!”

A photo of UT Rio Grande Valley campus with overlayed text reading, "What role do you play in student success?"
Figure 20.2: UT Rio Grande Valley
A photo of Diana Dominguez
Figure 20.3: Diana Dominguez

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