Updated: 2 September 2020
Studying remotely can be isolating. Promote the module, programme and university as communities for your students. A sense of belonging contributes to students’ wellbeing and motivation to learn.
“Use informal and friendly language, establishing a welcoming tone from the outset. Using less formal academic language can encourage confidence and engagement with students. This leads to the students feeling more part of the class.” (OpenLearn toolkit)
Online learners need to feel socially and emotionally connected to have an engaged and successful experience. Fear and anxiety are likely to be experienced by students in the early stages of a new online module. Provide scaffolding for students to support them in becoming online learners.
A carefully planned orientation which links to university support resources will communicate that there is a wider support structure available. Introduce yourself (see Principle 11 Teacher Presence) and the module team. Within a programme and module, a sense of belonging can be generated through building connections between student and establishing a programme identity.
Emotions and the expression of emotions are an essential part of any learning process, and in online environments tutors can help learners normalise these by acknowledging and reflecting them back to learners. This can be done as part of ‘milestone’ checkpoints to orientate students in where they are in the module, for example, "this is where we have been", "this is where we are going next" and "this is what you might be feeling right now", using feedback from previous cohorts as appropriate.
There are plenty of examples online of ice-breaker activities for cohorts, often involving asking learners to share something about themselves. Pinboard style tools such as Padlet can be an informal space where you can ask students to post photos, images or other items. Similar tools and tasks can be used throughout the trimester and integrated with the curriculum, thereby continuing the emphasis on sharing as part of the learning experience.
Principle 10: Build In Flexibility >>
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