Another academic term has just started at Macquarie University Campus. First-years are looking around for opportunities to meet new friends, join a social club and attend one of the many induction sessions. What a great way to start their journey into academia! But what about our fully online learners? Do they have the same opportunities to ‘bond’? Do they experience the same level of engagement with academia as our campus students?
Units that are offered predominantly or fully online should include regular opportunities for online communication and collaboration between students. This will enhance learning, reduce isolation, and help ensure retention in online courses. Are there any ways in which we, as teaching staff, can help in this direction? Would any of the ideas below work for you and your online students?
1. Create an introduction discussion in which students are requested to supply not only their name but also something about their background, reasons for taking the unit, and expectations of it.
2. Create a virtual scavenger hunt in which ten questions navigate the student to either the online tools the student will be expected to use, or to information the student is expected to be well familiar with.
3. Create an informal area of communication for students to share their favourite weblinks, readings, events they attended, or simply favourite books or movies. Be sure to call it ‘Social Room’ or ‘TeaTime’. Create a post about your own favourite blog, website, movie, or book! Keep it open for the duration of the unit.
4. Create a ‘FAQ Room”, for technical, unit content, assessment and administrative queries. Keep it open for the duration of the unit and make it clear how often you will be willing to check it and reply. Encourage the students to help each other.
Keeping students engaged in the online unit is a vital function of an effective tutor! If you wish to get more ideas about how you can best support your online learners consider attending any of the below LTC workshops: