Welcome to the UM Online Learning Community, a place where people with common interests gather to create lasting and productive relationships where few existed before. In the end, this is about the pursuit of creating better UM online learning environments. Our desire is to have active members that share notes and resources to learn from each other. Thank you for being a part of this great endeavor.
Associate Dean, Distance Learning Institute
Dr. Rik Bair
Waiting for Students to Ask Questions?
How's that working for you?
Proactive Communication: A Simple Key to Connecting with Students
By Ariella St. Rose
You may be familiar with buzz terms like “gamification” and “virtual reality” which have been around for years, though these may not be the best way to get your students involved in learning. When it comes to creating engaging class experiences—remote, online, or on the ground—this simple solution is often overlooked, the proactive one. Proactive (rather than reactive) communication is more effective for increasing student participation in your class (Academy of Mine, 2014). Act, don’t react. It doesn’t require the latest in technology, simply a shift in perspective and a change in communication style.
Proactive Communication Fundamentals This is a communication style that is based on an understanding of the students' needs and taking the initiative to begin the communication rather than waiting for their questions. Expert communication specialist Cindy Langlois believes the fundamentals of proactive communication are to understand, anticipate, and personalize interactions with students and ensures a higher level of student care and engagement.
As a proactive method teacher, it is key to think ahead, anticipating what will happen and when. Naturally, problems and questions will likely arise, but, instead of waiting for a situation to happen and then reacting, the teacher instead pre-empts them—making for a more efficient use of time in the classroom. Yes, being ahead of the class requires preparation and attentiveness. The proactive method teacher also values their students, anticipating their problems and questions, thereby creating a learning environment that magnetically draws student interest. Consider a favorite teacher you had in college: was this something they commonly did?
Benefits of Proactive Communication Educators will realize these primary benefits when the proactive method is used:
Demonstrates a caring environment. Langlois observes that proactive communication shows an understanding by the teacher of where the students are and what they need during their journey – building their confidence and respect in the teacher. In my own experience, I had a professor who was great at proactive communication. It was my first class with her and the class was theory-based. It was a requirement for my degree, though I wasn’t sure how it would relate to my life or to any job I had in the future. Before anyone even asked this question, she explained exactly how the class pertained to the real world. She also made sure to relate every assignment she gave to real-world experiences. By doing this, she completely reframed things for me with the result of inspiring me to focus on learning the material in her class. Builds trust and loyalty. Proactive method communication increases credibility through a more personalized communication (Langlois, n.d.). It better allows teachers to establish personal connections with students. Positive relationships between teachers and students set an important foundation for any class (Wright, n.d.). Students take notice whenever teachers understand their needs and in return, tend to increase their level of trust. Thinking back to that same teacher, I trusted her greatly because she demonstrated an understanding of where we were in the web of knowledge she was creating. The result? I enrolled in as many classes taught by her as I could! Improves productivity and cuts down on those emails. Communicating with students before they experience problems reduces the amount of emails that you’ll have to answer later. It also reduces the need to answer the same question repeatedly.
After a year of unprecedented events and rapid changes in education, it is more important than ever to foster connections with students. Proactive communication enhances the student experience by allowing you to form meaningful relationships with them. Give it a try! Your students will thank you.
Ariella St. Rose, a UM Alumna, is an Instructional Designer with the Distance Learning Institute with a widely known passion for salsa dancing and CLIF bars.
Establishing connections with online students can be challenging. Traditional face-to-face classrooms foster connection with ease through nonverbal cues and frequent opportunities for student support. Some would say the online environment can leave instructors and students feeling isolated and dissatisfied with the learning experience (Darby, 2020). A new frame of mind is needed to create meaningful connections online. Online instruction is not identical to face-to-face instruction so the expectations for connection in this asynchronous environment should not, and cannot, echo those of a traditional classroom.
Detaching from the standard which is set by face-to-face instruction, the question becomes: How do we create satisfying connections with online students? The answer lies in maximizing the resources available with online instruction. Here are some tips to consider for connection in your online class:
Create an online presence through announcements and discussion board – communicate often (on a schedule helps) with students and set the tone of communication from the first day of class (Darby, 2020).
Create more options for students to complete assignments and interact with their peers – utilize group projects and become creative with the methods of submission (such as video submissions, peer review, social media, and discussion forums).
Create short videos to deliver content – videos will capture the human elements of the instructor and promote more attention from students.
Create an online community through “social networking technologies” and tools -- one study in Virginia looked at the impact social networking technologies had on how connected doctoral students felt while completing their programs. The study illustrated that students who used “social networking technologies” demonstrated a greater sense of connection than those who primarily utilized email and phone calls (Rockinson-Szapkiw et al., 2014).
Fostering connection online doesn’t have to be challenging if we further the strengths of online instruction. Instructors can relate to their students and promote classroom interaction through the use of announcements, discussion boards, videos, group projects, and social media. The implementation of any one of the outlined tips could radically change a student’s virtual experience and contribute to their overall success!
Brianna Basanta is an Instructional Designer with the Distance Learning Institute and a member of the Lifelong Learners Club.
Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Heuvelman-Hutchinson, L., & Spaulding, L. (2014). Connecting Online: Can Social Networking and other Technology Support Doctoral Connectedness? Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice,11(3), 1-15.
Showing patience with students increases their persistence
Professional Development Series
Video and Audio Editing for Educational Purposes
High-quality video and audio have become essential aspects of an engaging and professional virtual learning environment. Join the Division of Continuing and International Education’s Distance Learning Institute (DLI) at the virtual EdTech Café session on Video and Audio Editing for Educational Purposes.
Event attendees will:
Learn the basics of recording video and audio for instructional purposes
Dive into video and audio editing using Adobe Premiere Rush and Adobe Audition
When: February 16, 2021, and February 18, 2021, at 1 p.m. Where: Virtual Topic: Video and Audio Editing for Educational Purposes Hosts: Multimedia Instructional Specialists Alexa Rimart and Miguel Sandoval
This virtual event is a part of the DLI’s series to help the University of Miami faculty create successful and engaging online courses. The EdTech Café online course development events are held every third week in each month.