As we have already explored, students and educators can feel isolated while learning and teaching online. Encouraging students and educators to engage socially right from the start of the course is one way to help overcome this. In this section we explore a number of ways that educators can start and maintain presence. Once students and educators get to know a little about each other, and in particular about their desires and expectations from the course, it can be easier to find common ground and connect socially.
Key to success is engaging students right from the start of the course. Make sure they know that you are a ‘real’ person and that you are available to respond to their queries.
Welcome message – Post a short welcoming introduction video, audio or text that includes a brief bio and a snippet of personal information. If using text or audio, post a picture of yourself.
Student response – Ask students to post a similar message about themselves and their desires/expectations of the course.
Responding to students –Respond to the students’ initial posts as soon as is immediately possible and include individualised feedback. Let them know you have read/listened to their post and that you care about them and their requirements.
Icebreaker activities – Run an icebreaker activity prior to the first teaching and learning activity that will encourage student to student interaction, ensure everyone gets involved.
How are they getting on? – Ask the students how they are getting on, have they found everything, and have they been able to figure out the technology.