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5 Best Ways to Communicate With Online and Remote Students

Instructor-student communication is pivotal to effective online teaching. In order for online courses to meet their objectives, instructors need to maintain their online presence and actively engage their students in productive discussions. Instructors should provide online students with a sense of belonging to avoid the feeling of isolation that many online students can experience.  But how can instructors best build solid relationships and create an ideal atmosphere when all the communication is done virtually?

How Do I Communicate With My Students?

Here are some tips that instructors may use to share information, communicate effectively, and bond with their online students:

  1. Start Communicating Early & Use Visual Tools.  Provide your biography along with a picture of yourself before classes get started; this will help the students put a face to a name and get to know you a bit. You may also opt to create a personal video or audio so students may actually “see” you. This is an excellent way to get the ball rolling, begin bonding with your students, and have everyone “excited” to start the process of learning.
  2. Read Students’ Intros & Pay Attention to Specific Details. Initiate a private message with students who may signal a challenge or potential issues in their intros. Doing so will help these students know that they are not “alone” and that you are only one “click” away to provide guidance as you monitor their progress and intervene as the term progresses.
  3. Address Students with their Favorite Names. Ask students what they liked to be called and address them by that name in all communications (discussions, emails, texts, and phone conversations). Instructors may want to create a spreadsheet with their students’ nicknames, specific training/work background, and favorite hobbies. Not only will students feel they have your attention, but also, they will truly appreciate the fact that their instructor took notice of their personal life and incorporated these details when providing feedback or response.
  4. Offer Students Multiple Ways of Contacting Instructors. Whether via messages (LMS messages function), email, text, or phone call,  make sure that you share your preferred method of communication with your students. I always use LMS messages as they provide permanent records of communications. You may provide students with your cell phone number if that is within university/college guidelines. If privacy is a concern, several applications are available through Google Voice that would create free secondary phone number(s).
  5. Available & Respond in a Timely Manner. Online classes are attractive to all students and specifically to adult students who usually have full-time jobs with heavy work schedules, sometimes even in different time zones. Consider offering student office hours either virtually or at non-traditional times to better accommodate students with job or family obligations. Providing online students with immediate feedback and being highly visible will improve the online experience for learners.

The above-listed practices will allow instructors to better communicate effectively, maintain their online presence, reinforce their commitments, and promote excitement and encouragement for their online students.

About the Author

Dr. Murad Odeh is an Associate Professor of Biology at South Texas College (STC) where he continued to devote his career to help students of the Rio Grande Valley succeed since 1999. He became the Chair of the Biology department (2014-2016) and Interim Administrator of the Curriculum & Student Learning since 2017. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Microbiology from Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical Engineering in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His doctoral research was focused on the role of curved DNA in Bacillus subtilis RNA polymerase-promoter interactions. Murad quickly came to love the challenges and rewards of working with students. He worked as an adjunct faculty at the McAllen Branch for the University of Phoenix (2012-2014) and as an online instructor for Excelsior College in Albany, NY (2014-2017). Murad is a digital faculty consultant with McGraw Hill education since 2014 and a frequent contributor and presenter in local, regional, and international conferences. Murad enjoys working cooking, travel, and staying fit. His favorite quotation is, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

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