Tuesday, October 21, 2014
What is so important about communication in an online class?
As an online teacher, communication is something I continually struggle with. I sometimes feel like I am just a button pusher, riding an office chair. I miss the interactive side of the traditional classroom space. I want to feel like there is some sort of connection with the learning activities and with me as the teacher. I know that we learn from one another and that learning can be very difficult in isolation. I want to know that I can make a difference.
When I have communicated something in an assignment or lesson, I want to know that ideas, concepts and instructions for learning activities are clear. Without feedback I am left to wonder about the activity. Is it ok? Is something missing? Does an idea need to be presented in a different way? How can I make the learning experience better? What do the learners think of the activity?
When it comes to day to day activity in a school setting, we can meet students ask how their day is going and get to know more about them than a name on a screen. There is a huge social environment in school settings that is difficult to replicate in an online community. In the online world, the social relationship is something that often has to be pushed in order to get a smooth communication flow. We don't get to make eye contact as everyone walks into the classroom and just chat. I know that encouragement and support are really important for online students and I think the opportunities to offer the support needed are sometimes overlooked. Often a student may not feel comfortable reaching out for help and will avoid contacting the teacher. Sometimes help comes from someone at home, a friend or someone in the community.
In my experience, successful online students are willing to troubleshoot on their own and reach out for help when necessary. Communication by telephone, messaging, email, comments in assignments or lesson submissions, learning journals, and web conferencing are all tools for establishing and maintaining contact with the teacher or other learners. If you are an online student, I encourage you to reach out and share with others in discussion forums or blogs. Most important of all, please humor the teacher at the other end and say hello in there or pretend you need help from time to time.