An Easy Method for Building Relationships in Online Courses
Building rapport and establishing relationships are critical to the success of an online course. This practice promotes learning, engagement, and retention.
I understand the importance of community first-hand from the perspective of a student. I remember feeling overwhelmed and awkward in my first online course–it was not until I became familiar with the platform and felt comfortable with my classmates and teacher that I began to open up and participate more. Moral of the story: The more students feel comfortable, the more they will participate and engage in a variety of activities, which leads to the retention of students in your institution’s program. Think about it for a minute: In a traditional classroom, students sit in their regular spots and play off each other’s body language and social cues. In an online learning environment, these cues are often lacking, and the message may be misinterpreted if proper netiquette is not exercised.
How to Easily Start Building Community
One way to begin building a sense of community is to share your personal story with the class in a way that students can relate to and find common ground with you. What about your course makes you passionate? What past experiences influence the way you look at the course subject? What struggles have you encountered, and how have these obstacles contributed to your success as a continuous learner and teacher of the subject? In return, ask everyone to share their “my personal story and goals” with the group in an online discussion. This is the story that I share with my students–my intentions are to let the students know that they can be successful, no matter how challenging the obstacles may seem:
Why My Community-Building Method Works
Through the years, I have realized that my story has affected my students positively. For example, when I first began teaching online, a few of my students wrote me telling me how much my story encouraged them. They told me they felt more comfortable in the class knowing that I had been there too. I strongly believe that my personal story has a direct impact on my effectiveness as a professor and a positive influence in my online courses. More importantly, having told my story to my students, I have become more in touch with them and vice-versa. As a result, grades have increased in my online courses, and students have participated in online activities more regularly. To encourage participation, allow for more academic freedom in how students will respond to discussions based on their level of comfort. For example, they could reply with a video, audio, Prezi, blog, or even an infographic. This sweetens the pot, and the students enjoy the opportunity to be creative. It just makes sense that students’ participation is crucial to the online course. By participating regularly, students expand their knowledge and sense of community with instructors, colleagues, and others.
Share Your Experiences
How do you relate to your students and establish rapport? Share with us in the comments section below.