3. Connect and check-in with learners regularly

Remote teaching and learning guidelines for USask instructors

The incidental social interaction and connection felt from being present in a room together is greatly diminished or lost in an online environment.  Being deliberate, consistent, and intentional with connecting and checking in can build a virtual community that enables learners to engage meaningfully with you, the course content and each other.

Key Points

Connect

  • Facilitate learning: Consider ways you can engage with your learners in the learning process (e.g. answer questions, discuss a topic, work through a problem/case, provide feedback). It is important that you interact with learners through your activity in the virtual space.  In considering how much time you dedicate to each course, think about the time you would be present for a face-to-face class (office hours, responding to student queries, providing feedback, etc.) as a minimum.
  • Provide frequent, clear and consistent communication:  Provide clear directions to learners about your course and weekly expectations.  Prior to the first class, introduce yourself and identify first steps (e.g. click through the course, review the syllabus, calendarize assignments and assessments).  Start each week with a post listing the outcomes for the week, specific instructions related to learning activities, and reminders about tasks/assignments that need to be completed.  Explanations of why you are asking them to do certain activities will increase engagement (e.g. I am asking you to watch this video because…). Remember - clearly communicated expectations for learners will limit time spent clarifying and allow you to dedicate your time to supporting learning.
  • Set up virtual office hours provide regularly scheduled times for learners to connect with you synchronously individually or in groups to ask questions and receive support.

Check In

  • Ask for feedback:  An online environment does not always allow you to pick up the cues from learners (e.g. body language) that would be present in a F2F environment.  Create opportunities to hear from learners regularly.  Checking in both informs your teaching (and lets you make adjustments) and communicates that you are available for questions and support. This could be done via a short, anonymous survey, within Blackboard or Canvas, through mid-course SLEQ feedback, or via an open class discussion. 
  • Check student engagement: Use the Blackboard or Canvas analytics to determine if students are logging in regularly.  If someone is not, a quick email inviting them to re-engage can make a big difference to the likelihood of completion. These analytics can also show you where learners are spending their time and help you understand patterns of activity.

Tools

Class Communications at a Distance - tips & tools to make sure you’re keeping the communication lines open.

Building Community, Remotely - strategies for developing interaction, communication, and collaboration in your remote course

Establishing a healthy virtual learning community (VLC) - tips & tricks to help you facilitate your VLC using remote technology tools.

  • Plan for a mid-term course evaluation through SLEQ 
  • Create a discussion board for feedback or invite learners to email suggestions.  Emphasize how important feedback is to you and how you will use it, or learners may fear offending you and avoid participation
  • For smaller courses, consider an online talking circle to check on learners’ wellbeing and build connection and community.

Learn More

A collection of resources designed to give you more information.


USask Winter 2020 Student Feedback

During these tough times he always kept us up to date on his class and gave us time to prepare for assignments during these troubling times. He also gave us clear instructions on how he wanted it done and why each assignment was important.

The professor took time to email us updates and pep talks. I was never concerned about what was happening. The voice-overs on the power points were the most helpful thing I think, sometimes verbal explanations are needed.

Our group was able to call my instructor and have a thorough conversation regarding the assignment. Anything we discussed that was relevant to other groups was summarized and sent to an email to all students. This was very beneficial.

I liked how she posted answers to the examples and was really quick at responding to emails.