How to Keep the Humanity in Online Courses
If you have ever taken or considered taking an online course, you are well aware of some of the challenges and criticisms that online courses face. Some consider the fact that there is no physical, literal classroom a disadvantage. Others consider it an advantage. When taking an online course, it is true that there are no students in the desks next to you, and that there may be hundreds or even more than a thousand students participating in the same class. The lack of a physical classroom, however, does not have to be a disadvantage. One advantage of online courses is that students from all over the world with a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, and languages are coming together to learn, collaborate, and share their ideas together.
How Can Online Courses Keep People Interacting with Each Other?
- Discussion Boards and Panels: One of the most common ways that online courses keep the human element in their course is through discussion boards and panels. By interacting with discussion board and panels on a daily basis, online courses give full control of student participation and learning to the learner. Although it depends on the student how much they choose to contribute to such discussions, the same conditions exist on a learner in a physical classroom.
- Videos from Course Moderators: In addition to discussion boards, it is common in online courses to include videos from the moderators regarding updates about the course, and how it is progressing. Videos from the courses moderators and teachers, allow the online learner to feel more engaged and connected to the educators as if they were sitting in a physical classroom. Students are more likely to feel engaged when there is an introduction video to the course for each week, and it is needed especially for week one of an online course.
- Live Sessions: Some courses even include live Q & A sessions, which give students the option of interacting more directly with the course and the educators. Course moderators can encourage student participation by offering live sessions, and answering student concerns live from the camera. Live-streaming video content is one of the best ways to maintain the human element within online courses. For certain with the ability to interact live and ask questions to your instructors, online courses are providing students the possibility to communicate in a similar fashion to the “regular” student classroom.
- Class Surveys: For some students, class surveys are a way that they feel connected. By participating in surveys, and receiving survey results from classmates, students can feel that they are being listened to, and that are connected to each other as well as the instructors. It is popular at the end of the first week in an online course for teachers to provide surveys. Surveys allow students to express their opinion about the progression of the course, course content, and their personal expectations for the course.
- Messages from the Educators: Another way that students feel that the human element is present in online courses, is when educators submit feedback on students’ posts or send them personal messages. Although not every educator has time to submit hundreds of students’ personal messages, course moderators can contribute to maintaining humanity in the course by being active while the course is active. Seeing educator responses to student posts increases student motivation and interest.
- Diversify Course Format: As we know from existing research, students learn in different ways. Some learn better by reading or listening, others learn better through collaboration, and yet others learn quicker through creative assignments. By diversifying the course format and course content, students are more likely to continue to feel engaged. From recording voice clips to identifying their location on a map to uploading photographs, students can communicate creatively with each other and course moderators.
- Provide Opportunities for Group Work: As with any class, whether online or in-person, group work can encourage student collaboration and teamwork. Online courses that offer the opportunity for group work encourage open communication between students and students with their educators. Group work or group assignments can be linked to outside program or social networks. Students can create, write, think, and work together through a wide variety of programs that include options for video chat, audio chat, or just typed messages.
No Reason to Fear Online Courses!
There is no reason to fear online courses when it comes to concerns regarding missing the human element. Online courses are no longer just an experiment. Millions of people worldwide connect to online courses and communicate with their educators and fellow peers daily. Videos, surveys, live sessions, discussion boards, group work, ongoing communication with course leadership, and a diverse course format all allow students to feel that the human element is present in online courses.