Staying engaged with an online instructor isn’t easy.
I know because I was an online instructor, but I’m also very much a human being. Granted, I spent significant amounts of time plugged into the wires of my computer, but I was, indeed, still a human on the other end.
I’m pretty sure not all my students were quite aware of my humanity. Virtual teaching makes it more difficult to connect with students. Connecting with students is something I’m particularly proud of doing in classrooms. It truly makes all the difference on both sides of the academic experience. (Another secret… students are what make teaching totally worth it.)
Somewhere during my virtual academic time, I began to realize they were unsure how to effectively reach through the medium and relate to me. So I’m going to share some tips to make your online educational experiences better than you ever anticipated.
Let Your Instructor Connect With You
Does your instructor ask questions? Many use email or the weekly forums to pose questions to the classroom, sometimes even picking individuals for further questions or reflection. Participate in these. These questions are not an activity in uselessness. In fact, they are often meant to emulate discussion that occurs in the classroom experience. Think Socrates here, asking questions in order to learn. Open yourself to the virtual discussion. Explore, ask questions, dare to be right.
Contact Your Instructor – Early
With the end of any course comes a series of emails from students: requests for extensions, incompletes or urgent requests for clarification on assignments and material. Most instructors are highly aware that life doesn’t always cooperate with a term’s format. There’s work, kids, hot water heaters that blow up and flood the house. It happens. We know that. In fact, most instructors worth their weight care a great deal about their students and their ability to excel.
But remember a couple of things:
- We are human, too. We also have work (oftentimes we maintain another full-time job in addition to our teaching gig), kids and PIA hot water heaters.
- The end of a term is the busiest time for instructors. We are usually grading like insane chipmunks and there is a whole slew of institutional administrative stuff going on behind the scenes that you don’t see. Our email boxes are threatening to go on strike.
- It’s been a long term for us, too. We, too, have been eyeing that bottle of red and a night of Netflix.
If you catch us early in the term with any issues, even just a head’s up about a possible issue, it’s a good thing. In the meantime, keep us updated. Give us the informed power to advocate for you and easily grant any extra time you may need to finish strong.
Contact Your Instructor – Because You’d Like to Know More
Maybe you want to relate a story of your own experience concerning the material; maybe you find something interesting and want to pick your instructor’s brain; maybe you simply have questions.
Look, I got an advanced degree in history because I LOVE history. Seriously, I love to talk about history. I used to drag my Navy and Air Force buddies to museums and involuntarily educate them. (Sorry guys, I know you miss me.) We love any excuse to chit-chat about our subjects and to help clarify elements of what we are teaching. So, really, really, ask! You aren’t bothering anyone. In fact, you may make our day.
What you get out of your online academic experience is within your power. Get involved in the virtual discussion! Engage and keep your instructors updated and I think you’ll find that they will be excited to do the same. Good luck!
Read Next: The Pros and Cons of an Online Education