Online classes are increasingly becoming a common teaching modality in higher education. When done properly, online classes can be an effective way to teach students with various schedules, locations and skills. The challenge in teaching online classes is in making a class that engages students. The Humanizing Online Teaching course at California State University – Channel Islands (CSUCI) is a model online course that teaches instructors how to engage students through the use of instructor presence, universal design for learning (UDL), social presence and empathy.
Instructor presence is important in helping students feel satisfied with the online course and stay enrolled. Instructor presence is challenging to convey towards students when they do not meet their instructor physically. However, new and old technology can breach the physical barrier. Simple tools, such as phone calls and emails can help students feel like their instructor is involved and has a personal interest in the course. Newer technology can facilitate in making meetings or class discussions with camera/audio programs, such as ZOOM or VoiceThread are great tools.
ZOOM and VoiceThread are also great tools to create a social presence within the class. When students are not engaged with their peers, they may feel isolated and they can lose the dynamic engagement of learning that occurs typically during discussion sessions within a classroom. VoiceThread create a virtual discussion session online and ZOOM can provide a way for students to meet each other virtually. With these tools, students can get the classroom feel, yet maintain the benefits of online learning.
Furthermore, online courses excel in UDL, when compared to the physical classroom. Students can view lectures online, watch supplemental videos, read papers, discuss topics with students, work on creative projects and much more at their own pace. Every type of learner can be accommodated in an online setting.
Finally, by utilizing UDL and instructor presence techniques, empathy can be conveyed to students in an online setting. Empathy can help alleviate the problem of students feeling isolated and invisible in a large classroom or an online course. The instructor can express empathy by acknowledging student struggles and showing a willingness to work with the individual.
In conclusion, instructor and social presence, paired with UDL and empathy make online learning a highly effective way of teaching. All of these components are essential in humanizing a class.
Online classes can make students accountable and highlight their creativity.