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5 Ways Educators Can Improve Online Learning

The world of online learning has opened up myriad possibilities for many people. A rigid on-campus schedule once made it challenging or impossible to attend classes. Now students can take a class on almost anything at almost any time online. However, there are still great improvements to be made to maximize the potential for students’ success. As an educator, it is up to you to facilitate those improvements.

1. Make Information Easy to Access

One of the most important steps you can take as an educator is to make all information easy to access. To help students overcome their ignorance, you should err on the side of oversharing rather than withholding. Make information clear, simple, and comprehensive. One way to make information easy to access online is to use a screen recorder to explain any steps you want students to take online.

A written outline of instructions often isn’t enough when it comes to online learning. It can be confusing and students can get lost quickly. With screen recordings, students can watch your actions and follow along on their screens. If needed, they can also rewind and watch it again. With this approach, you’ll minimize mistakes and enhance the student experience.

2. Create Open Lines of Communication

Still, your students will struggle in other ways. You are bound to have students who are underprepared and undereducated in your subject material. They may have never had a mentor before to guide them and walk them through processes. A student adrift and alone is unlikely to learn much. To that end, make sure students have access to your office hours and that you are responsive when they do reach out.

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There is nothing worse for an eager student lacking in self-confidence than to be turned away. Of course, you don’t have to be available 24/7 but do make yourself free throughout the day during the week. Encourage students to come to you, and work on having a receptive manner as their educator. When students do come to you with struggles and issues, provide feedback that shows you understand. Then, offer concrete support.

3. Reach Out and Offer Support

Sometimes, it’s not enough to simply be open and welcoming to students who come to you. In many cases, you may need to be the one to reach out. Yes, this is the work of educators; you must not only teach but also invest yourself in positive outcomes. One of the biggest failures of the public education system is how many students fall through the cracks. Students without support often fail to learn through no real fault of their own.

If you notice a student’s grades dropping, reach out and ask if they need help. Some of your students may not engage in online discussions. Don’t just make it a requirement to participate in these forums. Instead, draw students out with open-ended questions, and then actively listen to their responses. Finally, ensure students have access to any campus resources they may need for larger issues, like mental health, that you’re not equipped to deal with.

4. Ensure the Schedule Is Clear and Manageable

You have no idea what your students know, so you can’t assume they know how to manage a study schedule. Many new students take on more than they can manage, confusing secondary school with university or college. This approach often ends in burnout and even dropout. Sadly, there are not many classes or experiences that cover independence. It can be up to educators to help students learn how to learn.

You can facilitate the learning process for your students by creating a clear schedule with set expectations. Having a syllabus that outlines the entire semester on day one can go a long way in the right direction. When students know what to expect, they are better prepared to learn. Then, double-check your schedule to make sure it’s manageable for students who may have a heavy load. Make it easy for students to study, and they are more likely to do it.

5. Build Community for Collaboration and Networking

Last but not least, you are not alone either. That’s right; you’re not expected to manage all of your students’ needs and struggles all by yourself. Instead, do what you can, and help them build community and collaborate. Provide them with resources for study groups on campus or online. If those don’t exist, show them how to start a group themselves. The more support students have among their peers, the more engaged they’ll be.

You can also facilitate community among your students in class. You could schedule a weekly or monthly online forum discussion or Zoom call. Get students talking about the subject matter or their shared struggles with learning and college life. You can start the discussion and then bow out, bringing them together but not acting as a supervisor. This way, your students will show up, but they won’t feel judged by the teacher.

In the end, learning — online or otherwise — is about so much more than just studying the subject. It goes way beyond writing essays and taking tests. Instead, it requires happy, healthy students genuinely interested in doing well. And that can be a difficult role to assume for a lot of people these days. As a result, educators must go one step, or two or three, further to bring students into the learning loop. This can be especially true in the often isolating world of the internet.

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