I’ve been teaching for over 10 years – much of it online – but I was also lucky enough to earn one of my Master’s degrees through an online program, so I’ve had the chance to be on both sides. This gives me a unique perspective on what to do to keep my students happy and coming back for more.
Grading. Feedback is important because students may feel uncomfortable approaching their instructors with questions. Be clear, encouraging, and quick! I always try to return work within 48 hours of the due date. I include both comments within the work itself and a short paragraph explaining both what’s good and what can be improved.
Talking. I’m not just referring to phone calls because sometimes phone calls aren’t an option. Talking refers to any communication. But, if I am on the phone, I make sure to smile. It makes me sound happy and friendly, according to my students. If I’m using email or instant/private message systems, I “smile” online. Emoticons can give them that smile and helps all my communication be encouraging and positive.
Availability. Hold virtual office hours! I always have a dedicated time when my students can call or meet me in an online chat room to give them that real-time response. Since both online teachers and online students have full-time jobs and their part-time job/school is on the side, I have some hours over the weekend and at night.
Online tools. Instant messaging programs, Google Hangout, Skype, and email are all tools that help me talk to my students real-time or somehow enhance my communication with them. I also like using a screen capture software (Jing is my favorite) to make quick videos. Sometimes they’re just quick reviews of the week’s assignments, but every little thing helps.
Professional development. I am a member of multiple professional organizations, including the USDLA (United States Distance Learning Association) as well as their local state chapter (Texas DLA). In addition, when I taught at community colleges, I belonged to the state community college organization, and since I teach English, I’m a member of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English). These groups help by providing information on best practices, journals to read and publish in, chances to attend workshops, and more. In addition, there are also technology groups and textbook publishers that offer free online workshops about their products. Even if I can’t get or use their particular product, I still often learn something that helps me in my role.
There are many other things you can do to help your students succeed, but if you stick with these five ideas, you’ll have a good grounding for everything else you want to do.