Lack of interpersonal communication is a frequent concern in distance learning, because a student’s chance at success can be negatively affected if they feel isolated in their pursuit. Here are three strategies professors can use to build strong connections:
- Make your own videos. If you want your students to feel a more personal connection, consider taking the time to accompany study units with short video clips. You can also record a screencast as a tutorial of a process you are teaching. Concise, thoughtful 3-5 minute segments hold viewer’s attention and they are also relatively easy to access from mobile learning devices. There are free tools like Screencast-O-Matic that also allow you to upgrade for video-editing and the ability to record longer movies (perhaps for a recorded interview with an expert in the field).
- Enable students to work together. Although adult learners achieve best when able to work autonomously, there may be some instances where you find collaboration a preferable strategy. To help students effectively work together on a large research project or a communications exercise, share access to documents, slideshows, or spreadsheets through Google Drive. The platform automatically saves any changes, so learners can continue to progress asynchronously and see their peers’ updates in real time. Additionally, students can leave notes to recommend revisions to each other or connect their ideas.
- Find creative ways to build social media interaction. Many MOOCs and a growing amount of traditional college courses share a unique course hashtag in the syllabus. As an instructor, you could use a hashtag to tweet assignment reminders and encourage students to answer each other’s questions. More structured discussions can also happen through a LinkedIn group. Students can reflect on the lesson objectives in a closed message board while also practicing their networking skills. These exercises may also form connections that carry on past the end of the course.
The emerging segment of nontraditional learners balance multiple responsibilities, frequently intermittent study sessions, and the need to feel personal meaning to motivate their learning. Exploring new strategies to address their challenges in higher education will support more opportunities available for student success.
What creative ways have you connected in the virtual classroom?