UW Endowed Professor Shares Online Teaching Advice with Inside Higher Ed

head portrait of a woman
Leigh A. Hall

It can be easy for students to not feel connected in an online environment -- particularly in classes that aren’t conducted live. When you don’t have any personal interactions, or even see faces, it may not seem like there is anyone listening to you.

Leigh A. Hall, Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair Professor in Literacy Education at the University of Wyoming, shared her advice on how to build relationships with students and help them overcome the feeling of isolation in an online learning environment with Inside Higher Ed.

“If we want online learning to be truly interactive, then part of our job as teachers is to foster communities where students can become connected,” she explains.

Inside Higher Ed is the leading digital media company serving higher education.

Wyoming is well-known for the great distances between places and, for some students, online courses might be the best option for them to gain high-quality education. For this reason, it is important for teachers in Wyoming to learn how to connect with these students to better understand their lives and hardships. This understanding will aid teachers in helping students reach their educational goals.

Hall suggests online teachers facilitate courses using platforms that allow the students to see one another and the instructor. Providing a “face-to-face” setting online can reduce the students’ feeling of isolation, as well as provide them a peer support network. Strong student-to-student relationships help them feel comfortable sharing ideas, as well as giving and receiving peer feedback.

Using multiple modes of communication can help foster community in the classroom. Hall has found that creating short videos explaining what the class will be learning and what activities the students will be doing each week provides another opportunity for the students to see the teachers’ faces and hear their voices.

“I believe the use of video in online courses is a tool that can effectively build community, communicate information and help increase comprehension of difficult concepts,” Hall says. For many students, it is easier to comprehend complex concepts when they are explained through a video instead of just reading about the concept in a textbook.

Sometimes, the most important thing a teacher can do doesn’t involve technology, Hall says. Simply making time to connect with each student to see how he or she is doing and provide encouragement can be an effective way to meaningfully engage. Teachers should make a goal to reach out to a few students each week. Hall suggests creating a spreadsheet to schedule and track interactions to ensure that nobody is left behind.



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