Online education has been one of the best news in the sector over the past years. Now, you can learn anywhere you can find an adequate device connected to the internet. It also allows teachers to bring engaging resources to their classes and let their students explore a broader skillset.
On the other hand, nothing is perfect. Fake news and poor-quality texts can also be found far too easily online, and it can be hard to distinguish one from each other. Plus, with a computer or tablet online in their hands, it is easy to see students becoming distracted, and chatting around or playing games while they should be doing research.
Of course, you can’t just ignore the benefits of an online education just because of its downside. The best way is to understand these five ways how students can positively interact with professors and classmates in this environment and make the most of it.
# 1 – Set boundaries from day one
For starters, everybody needs to know what is OK or not to do. It should go without saying, but you know how these things are. So it is always good to have some guidelines written down about how the interaction between professors and students (and among students) should happen.
It doesn’t need to be anything formal. Just a few lines about “keeping it civil and friendly” usually do the trick. But add it somewhere visible on your online platform, so there will be no excuses.
Also, let the students know which resources they can use. Are they allowed to ask online services, such aspaper help, to help them with their exams? When everything is clear is much easier to everyone.
# 2 – Create easy ways to communicate
Sometimes, communication gets noisy because the channel is poor. We just don’t have the right resource to say what we want, and it sounds all wrong in the end. To avoid it, it is important to offer as many ways to interact as possible – as long they are all reliable, of course.
When it comes to online education, forums are the most common choice, but you don’t need to stop there. Depending on the tool you are using, you might be able to add apps, such as Skype, Slack, or WhatsApp, to your platform, giving people the opportunity to add voice and video to the conversation.
# 3 – Be the role model
If you are the one concerned about the quality of the communication on your online course, start by being a role model. Most of the time, people just don’t know what to do and what to say, so they can be too shy or use the wrong words. But if they see someone doing it first, they might follow your lead.
Not that they will start copying and pasting your words. But the tone is very important here, in a conversation that is not face to face. And if you sound positive and friendly through your writing, it is very likely that many people will feel believe that this is the way that things should be. So don’t be afraid of starting conversations. Soon, you won’t need to be doing it anymore.
# 4 – Understand the differences
In a forum where professors and students are allowed to chat freely is expected that the conversations will get confusing sometimes. And it is because the way that a student talk to a professor is different from how the same student will talk to a classmate.
So don’t expect that you will manage to achieve one single type of conversation. There will be different choices of words and topics, for instance. And youshouldn’t expect either to get the students to talk as they are under 24/7 supervision.
So if you still aren’t happy with things like this, it is best that you create different channels for each type of public then – one forum for students only and another one where they can ask questions to the professors.
# 5 – Be energetic if necessary
All said above works well for minor communication issues. But, if you see someone being disrespectful in your online class with the sole purpose to offend other people, by all means, take action.
There is no reason why you should think that it was just a joke and let it go further. If you do, others might believe it is fine to act like that, and it will be much harder to fix the situation later on.
So don’t think twice and report the situation to the responsible for the course. Depending on the situation, the person might have to be called for a private talk, and it will do.
But, in many cases, it is possible that they have to be stopped from attending the course orhaving their right to use the communications channels revoked. Evaluate case by case and take the best course of action available.
The bottom line
Online education comes with a price. And the price is to understand that you can’t just say what you want just because you are behind a computer.
To ensure that everybody will make the most of the classes is important that the communication channels be clear and used at their best. And this is the role of all people involved, both students and professors.