The influence of high-tech information delivery has dramatically changed the way teachers teach and learners learn.
Today’s students have grown up in the digital generation. They are used to watching videos, searching for answers online, and digitally sampling bits of information from a variety of sources. Nearly every student has a smartphone in their pocket, which allows them to access information on demand.
Technology-facilitated learning helps students and faculty in a multitude of ways. It helps facilitate instructor communication and feedback, allows students to more easily collaborate and communicate with peers, and provides opportunities for practice of learned skills. It has also fundamentally changed the way learners learn and the way instructors teach.
Faculty must acknowledge this change and evolve into a role in which they interpret this high-tech information and set it into a learning context for students.
Online instruction is fundamentally different from in-class instruction. While technology-enabled online instruction offers learners anywhere, anytime access and the ability to self-pace, the lack of face-to-face contact with instructors can be isolating.
Online instructors/facilitators are encouraged to actively seek out ways to create dialogue, foster interactions and build virtual learning communities.
Here are 10 ways you can create a better connection with your learners in an online world:
1. Encourage active participation
- Maintain a relaxed, engaging, and informative tone.
- Encourage learners to ask questions, share experiences and collaborate.
- Show no judgement and make sure no one ever feels ridiculed.
- Use humor where appropriate.
2. Don’t lecture…rather, question.
- The primary goal of an online facilitator is to turn lectures into interactive discussions.
- Engage learners through pertinent questions that encourage individuals to thoughtfully explore the subject matter.
- Use active questioning, which also helps instructors better know their learners, their preferences and their motivation, which in turn helps in the personalization of eLearning materials.
3. Encourage group collaboration
- Learners can become facilitators. Ask them to share experiences with others to demonstrate their skills and knowledge.
- Try dividing the class into smaller groups to tackle problems presented through real-world scenarios.
4. Make the information you’re providing “bite-sized”
- Gradually introduce information to learners through smaller, more digestible eLearning courses.
- Use polls, quizzes and gated content to make sure learners have fully absorbed information before moving on.
5. Tie the eLearning course into real-life scenarios or situations
- Tie subject matter into real-life examples or experiences.
- Provide learners with opportunities to assess how the information applies directly to their own lives or experiences.
6. Set clear goals, ground rules, and expectations
- Set rules and goals at the beginning, so learners are clear on the desired outcome.
- Set expectations with learners to keep everyone on track and aligned with the learning experience.
7. Keep the conversation on the subject at hand
- It is the online facilitator’s job to bring the discussion, questions and answers back to the subject at hand, so learners don’t lose their way and the learning value is retained.
8. Talk less and listen more
- Good facilitators talk less and listen more. You are there not only to offer your wisdom and experience, but to also help learners become fully engaged.
- Use questioning to guide discussions that will allow a learner’s understanding to unfold.
- Encourage debate (within the context of the subject matter).
9. Act as a guide, rather than as an instructor
- Online facilitators work to make sure learners are actively learning the subject matter as well as using critical thinking to apply it within their own lives.
10. Ask for feedback and make changes accordingly
- Be open to constructive feedback from learners, and use feedback to improve your methods of instruction and the course materials.