8 Ways To Simplify Your Online Teaching Approach

One of the biggest challenges of online teaching is the feeling of being overwhelmed. Your students feel it. And so do many online teachers! But when you simplify your systems and processes, you reduce student confusion, increase overall clarity, and make your online teaching more effective.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

6 Online Teaching Lessons From Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein did more than re-write the laws of physics. His personal philosophies are fascinating, and many of his ideas are directly relevant to the practice of online teaching. These online teaching lessons from Albert Einstein offer inspiration for how we, too, can leave a lasting legacy - on the lives of our students.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The A-Z Of Online Teaching Challenges

Have you ever felt that you face more online teaching obstacles than you can count? This A-Z of online teaching challenges will help put things back into perspective, and offer some practical ways of handling some of the recurring issues you face when teaching online.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

The Surprising Skill That Makes Online Teachers More Effective

Every day, online teachers draw from a deep well of diverse skills. But there's one (often overlooked) teaching skill which can have a massive impact on student outcomes. This skill also has career benefits for you, as it makes online teachers more effective.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Skills That Online Teachers Are Constantly Developing

Online teachers are often too busy juggling a heavy workload to notice an important fact - we may be teachers, but we're students, too! Online teaching improves your existing skills and helps you develop new ones (whether you realize it or not). Here are 5 skills you’ll probably refine today.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

How To Teach Online Using Humor: 10 Dos And Don’ts

10 Dos And Don’ts To Teach Online Using Humor 

When you teach online, you’re always looking for ways to make your job easier, and your students’ experiences more satisfying. 

Humor is an online teaching tool that can help you achieve both of those goals. But this tool is more powerful than it looks. It pays to think carefully about how you’ll use it.

Wield this tool effectively, and you can:

  • Establish instant rapport with your students.
  • Create a warmer, more relaxed online learning environment.
  • Counter feelings of student isolation and anxiety.
  • Lighten the mood at stressful times of the semester.

But when used at the wrong moment, humor can do some serious damage. It might:

  • Accidentally cause offense by crashing cultural or personal boundaries.
  • Set up inappropriate student/teacher roles.
  • Imply a lack of respect.
  • Affect your credibility as a professional educator.

Clearly, there’s a right time and a wrong time to use humor when you teach online. Here’s how to make the most of this powerful tool.

Teaching Online Scenarios That DO Work Well With Humor 

  1. Breaking the ice.
    At the start of a new semester, a little humor in your welcome email can really help to show students you’re a living, breathing person who’s approachable and helpful. This helps to set the tone for the coming semester, and sets up a warmer learning environment.
  2. Reassuring an anxious student.
    Many students who are new to online learning are overwhelmed. They’re anxious and impatient. Some gentle humor can help them smile, relax, and gain some perspective.
  3. Clearing up confusion.
    I often get emails from students who are overthinking assignment questions, or are completely stuck for ideas on what to write about. They’re bogged down in in detail and can’t see a way out. I often use a humorous example to let a little light in, and give them some perspective. This allows them to step back and see the big picture – and then they often see that things are not that complicated after all.
  4. Dealing with senior or long-term students.
    When you teach online, you’ll find that many of your students are learning part-time. That means you may teach them over several semesters. During that time, you build up an ongoing working relationship with them, and so get to know them a little better. After a while, you can tell which students will respond well to a more informal humorous approach.
  5. When receiving positive feedback. 
    At the end of the course, when you get emails from happy students, a little strategic humor in your ‘thank you’ message can reinforce the warmth of the working relationship, and set up a good foundation for the future.

Teaching Online Scenarios That DON’T Work Well With Humor 

  1. Discussing grades.
    Student results are a serious topic – whether they’re good or bad. A high grade will be the result of hard work, and should be sincerely acknowledged rather than joked about. And a low grade will involve a failing result or a resubmission – neither of which are at all funny.
  2. Saying “no”.
    When refusing a request for an extension or unwarranted special consideration, your tone must be completely professional. You want your word to be final, and so there’s no room for humor here.
  3. When giving feedback.
    Students are at their most vulnerable when submitting work – whether it’s for final assessment, or simply comments on a draft. Humor is dangerous here: Never make your students feel you’re laughing at them.
  4. With a formal, very busy group.
    Humor is just another form of communication, so it helps to remember the golden rule of good communication: Know your audience. If you have a very busy, rather humorless group of professionals, humor will be seen as an irritating waste of their precious time. Don’t risk it.
  5. When you need to protect your credibility.
    Teaching online often involves demonstrating that you’re a consummate professional. Never use humor when your credibility is being questioned or challenged. You’re a professional educator – not a comedian.

As you can see, humor must be used strategically when teaching online.

But by avoiding the potential pitfalls and using humor appropriately, you can create happier, more engaged online students who enjoy learning from a real person who sometimes makes them smile as part of the process.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Ways To Survive A Student Email Avalanche

How To Survive A Student Email Avalanche 

When you teach online, you quickly notice that your inbox is always filled to overflowing with student email. 

And if you don’t check your messages for a day or two, look out!

When you do open your email it’s like watching an avalanche coming roaring down a mountainside – straight towards you.

What can you do to make sure you’re not snowed under by student email, answering message after message for hours on end?

Here are 5 ways to deal with student email well before it snowballs out of control. 

1. Make communication time frames clear. 

Many online students don’t realize that eLearning involves delayed contact. They’re much more used to instant answers and immediate feedback. So don’t wait for them to find out the hard way that teacher-student email is often delayed in an online learning environment. Tell your students what to expect when communicating with you:

  • Will you answer emails within one working day?
  • Do you have virtual office hours?
  • Are there specific times you are unavailable?
  • Will you return graded work within 5 working days? Or 10?

Explain the rules of eLearning communication, and online students are more likely to work within those rules.

2. Prevent unnecessary student emails in the first place.

Set up your Learning Management System to be as learner-friendly as possible. If your online students can find the information they need without extensive searching, they’re less likely to email for help with simple queries. By encouraging independent learning you find that student email more often relates to valid questions - rather than multiple queries about when the next assignment is due.

3. Scan your inbox before you answer even one student email.

Student email tends to follow certain patterns. Rather than just wading into the snowdrift of student email, scan your inbox first. Get the “lay of the land” – are there messages from colleagues or management you need to answer first? Is there a reply from a student you’ve been waiting to hear from on an urgent issue? Deal with those messages first, and get them out of the way. Then you can look for patterns – are there any online students who’ve sent you several emails since you last checked?

Let’s say a student has sent you 4 emails overnight. Try reading them in reverse date order, from the earliest to the latest message. You may well find that the student has answered her own question in the process. That means you can send one email back to the student, instead of four. A single-line response –“Great to hear you’ve sorted it out independently!”– saves you time and unwanted aggravation.

4.  Don’t multi-task.

When you teach online, juggling many tasks is second nature. But when it comes to student email, it helps to deal with one snowball at a time.

Let’s say you get a student question about an aspect of the course materials. You need to check your Learning Management System to find the answer. But the system is taking forever to load this morning! So you impatiently open another email and start dealing with that at the same time. This can cause complications pretty quickly. Before you know it, you’re halfway through several queries and you’re starting to confuse yourself (and very probably your online students) in the process. It’s actually more efficient to deal with each student query in full, completely, and then move onto the next. What seems like saved time through multi-tasking can actually lead to a lot of backtracking and cross-checking, as you try to make sure you’re matching the right answer to the right student.

5.  Answer student email in blocks.

Try this easy time management technique. Check your message twice or three times a day, in blocks. Not when you’re halfway through grading a paper. Not while you’re having lunch. If you turn your speakers off, you won’t hear a demanding bleep every three minutes when another deluge of student email arrives in your inbox. That makes it easier to finish grading that pile of papers by the end of the day. If you keep opening student email messages, every new student crisis or question will distract you from your goal.

These practical approaches will help you take control of your inbox, and get on with the business of the teaching day.

Student email doesn’t have to freeze up your productivity like a heavy snowfall.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

A Quick Way To Cut Online Student Drop Out Rates

How To Cut Online Student Drop Out Rates 

Online student drop out rates keep plenty of us up at night. It’s an ongoing challenge to keep learners interested, on track, and motivated to complete their courses. And there are many strategic ways to do that.

For example, you can:

  • Create more engaging course material.
  • Make eLearning more relevant.
  • Appeal to different learning styles.
  • Incorporate learner-friendly Instructional Design.

Each of these approaches can certainly make a difference. Many can actively reduce your online student drop out rates – over the long term.

But these strategies take time, and access to competitive resources. It can be a struggle to get organizational support to give your course the revamp it may desperately need.

And in the meantime, those drop out rates show no sign of slowing down.
So here’s something you can do right now.

You can encourage your students to contact you directly for help.

It sounds so simple, but are you actually doing it?
Or do you assume that students with problems will automatically reach out?

I’ve found that often they won’t.

Many of them do need help. But they may hesitate to ask for it, because:

  • They don’t want to bother you.
  • They don’t think they’re “allowed” to ask questions.
  • They think eLearning is a solo journey, and they’d better soldier on alone.
  • They feel that asking for help is an admission of weakness.
  • They don’t want to look stupid.
  • They think they “should” be able to work it out on their own.

These are the kinds of students who suffer in silence. They need your help – urgently. But they don’t know it’s there for the asking.

Before long, these students will decide that eLearning is “too hard” ,or “not for me”. So what they do next is no surprise. They feel overwhelmed, alone...

And they drop out.

So for many students, knowing that help is available is a game changer.

By encouraging questions, you open the door to communication. You make it possible for them to ask for help.

But won’t this lead to an avalanche of student email?

I worried about this initially, too. The last thing I need is 100 more daily emails. But I’ve found that being more approachable hasn’t led to a noticeably bigger workload.

The students who already email you four times a day with questions will do that anyway. They tend to be either high achieving (or overly anxious) and they don’t need an invitation to contact you.

But what about the adult learner sitting alone with her computer at 11.30pm after a long day at work? She’s hit a road block with Assignment 2. It’s due next week, and she’s completely stuck. She feels frustrated and panicky, and from here, she’s likely to either:

  1. Give up, stop engaging with the course and eventually drop out,
    or
  2. Remember your welcome email where you directly invited her to, “Just ask if you have any questions”.
    She sends you an email, your reply solves her problem, and she gets back on track with her work the next evening. She feels reassured and supported. She takes another step towards the course finish line. And that student-saving email took you about 30 seconds to write.

I’ve found that moving students past road blocks towards the end of the course hasn’t added significantly to my workload. But any kind of time investment takes some serious justification, I know. We already have more than enough to do.

To my mind, though, this approach to student support is easy to justify.
And here’s why.

When you encourage contact, you create happier students who feel they’re being heard and helped, rather than abandoned and ignored. The finish line comes back into focus for them, and that results in lower drop out rates for you.

So try asking learners to contact you with their questions. Add a simple sentence about your availability to student emails, announcements and any other high traffic areas of your Learning Management System.

When at-risk learners know there’s a safety net in place, they have more options than to drop out. You can help make sure they know that.

How do you encourage students to stay in your courses?

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.