Online classes: Improving communication with students
Effective communication with students in online classes should be a priority for instructors as it not only contributes to retention but also provides a sense of community that is important to the student.
Why is effective communication necessary in online classes?
The goal of online communication is the same as that of face-to-face communication: building links; share information; be heard and be understood.
When and how you communicate with your students helps foster a sense of community in your online classes, which helps them feel connected to you and their colleagues.
As an instructor, finding the best methods to communicate with your students should be your number one priority.
The conversation in an online environment requires a little more thought and planning than the one that occurs in the classroom, due mainly to the absence of body language.
Developing timely, relevant and useful communication for your students is not always a simple task.
Here are some basic guidelines to help you achieve good results:
- Remember, Less is More: Try to use as few words as possible. Online students are bombarded with information that consists mostly of text, so the last thing they want is to read yet another long message.
- Be clear: Your message should be concise and clear, leaving no room for varying interpretations. If you want your students to know that the deadline for a test has been extended, for example, your message should speak only about that.
- Be polite: Reread your text to make sure it sounds the way you want it to sound. Check the tone of the communication and check for clarity and completeness in the text. You want your messages to be professional and enjoyable, and for your students to know that you receive their questions well.
- Provide feedback: As your students are learning from a distance, it is important that they receive consistent feedback on their progress in online classes. If a student asks a question about a task, it is interesting that you first offer a personal answer to that question, and then if you feel the question is important to the rest of the class, introduce it to everyone.
- Ask for Opinion: Ask your students what they think adds another personal touch to your communication, which helps them to create a bond. People like to give their personal opinion, make them feel important and part of something, at the same time, this feedback is of great value to help improve the content of your course in the future.
Another detail to think about: Do your students need to have the information now? If the answer is yes, you should ensure that the method used to send this message is one that reaches everyone immediately, such as a text message via SMS or WhatsApp.
You should also post an ad in your online classes to serve as a permanent record of what specific information has been given.
Also, to get attention, use capital letters in bold and include “IMPORTANT” in the subject line or title of the notification.
To communicate effectively with your students online you need to think outside the text box.
Not all people like to interact using the same methods, so you have to be prepared to use different types of channels to communicate.
A Learning Management System (LMS) has integrated tools to aid communication during your online classes, but there are also many other technological tools available to help bridge the gap between you and your students.
Ways to communicate with the student in online classes
The ways that instructors communicate in their online classes should reflect the diversity of their students.
There are many tools available to help increase the effectiveness of your communication and connection with students.
You can start by using the communication tools included in your LMS to quickly get in touch with students, but it’s no secret that your online classes become more engaging with more innovative communication methods.
Technologies such as email, social networks, chats, and video chat applications like Skype and Google Hangout have made communication between instructor and students more timely, efficient, productive, and satisfying for both parties.
Some of the methods you can explore are:
- VoiceThread – The Voice Thread is a web-based platform that allows teachers and students to upload images, videos, or documents; record audio, video, or text comments, and invite others to record comments as well. You can use VoiceThread with your students in a variety of ways, such as a live project presentation, peer reviews, or to create a presentation using images, video, and audio.
- Google HangoutsGoogle – Google’s messaging, video, and voice app. With the messaging feature, you can have a private conversation with one of your students, a small group or with everyone at the same time. Using the video feature, you can turn your conversation into a video chat.
- GoToMeeting – Video conferencing software that allows users to collaborate in real time. You can use GoToMeeting to host study sessions, for example. You can use the whiteboard to share your screen or illustrate learning concepts. Students can use computer audio or their phones to connect to the meeting. GoToMeeting also allows you to save the session for later viewing.
- Podcasting applications like www.spreaker.com – Podcasting is nothing more than recording a series of audio files. This material can be distributed regularly to summarize the learning content and serve as a study guide.
There are many other tools you can use in your online classes.
When making your communication plan, be creative and think outside the box to find at least three different ways to communicate with the student.
Have a Communication Plan in Advance
Planning in advance how, when and why you will communicate with your students is a great way to ensure the effectiveness of this interaction in your online classes.
It is intended that your communication plan includes:
How you will communicate
Determine by what means you will communicate with your students, such as email, text messages, podcasts, video messages, video conferencing, or even phone calls.
It is important that you decide how you will contact your students so that when the time comes, it is easy to choose the right method for contacting them.
It is also equally important that you tell your students what methods you plan to use to contact them, so that they know where to look for your messages.
You can assign a space in the home of your course to leave general announcements.
Use email or text messages if you want to send a warning to a particular student and video or voice messages for notifications that are for everyone.
The good old notepad is also invaluable in providing students with timely feedback on their progress in the course.
When you will communicate
For routine notices, it is best to plan ahead for how often they will be passed on to the class.
Will it be bi-weekly, weekly or once a day? It’s up to you to define when you want to make relevant ads about your online classes.
You can choose, for example, to make weekly announcements, comment on activities related to last week’s classes, or to clarify a learning concept.
How your students should communicate
Do you prefer to be contacted by text, email or phone? Whatever your preferred method, be sure to communicate clearly so your students know how to get in touch with you.
It is also a good idea to go through more than one option in case one fails.
One solution is to establish a media hierarchy, that is, a contact preference and target order, such as:
- Messages: Whether through SMS, WhatsApp or by the LMS platform itself, the messages provide a permanent record of communications within the class and are ideal for short notices.
- E-mail: Indicated for longer, both private and general information.
- Telephone call: Best choice for urgent matters, which need to be resolved quickly.
Put all this information in a permanent place, like the course bio, and repeat periodically during the online classes.
E-Learning Platform for Facilitating Communication in Online Classes
Determining what communication methods you are going to use is important for your students to know how you will get in touch with them and how they can communicate with you.
Another tip is to create a space where students can connect and communicate with each other, such as a Facebook group, a Slack account, or any other platform of the kind.
If you are hosting your courses on Coursify.me, you can rely on the Student Area chat to promote interaction among your students and answer questions.
A support group is one of the most important things for effective learning. It gives your students the opportunity to ask questions, get feedback and share their big and small wins.
In these groups people will want to interact with you and this is a great way to show your knowledge, help, create a relationship, and build student loyalty.
Complete e-Learning platform the Coursify.me has all the features you need to create and sell online courses, such as the ability to upload content from channels like YouTube, Vimeo and Dropbox and integration with payment gateways such as PayPal.
Serving businesses and professionals in more than 60 countries, Coursify.me is a dynamic and customizable LMS.
We have three choices of plans for you to decide which best suits your needs, and the good news is that the Beginner Plan is free!
Visit our website, test the platform and start creating your online classes now.