AOI | Learning Innovations

Distance Delivery

Online Instruction from a Student Perspective

By Morgan Atwood, ASWSU Global president

As a senior at WSU Global Campus, I consider myself an experienced user of distance learning methods. I’ve had the opportunity to take online classes in a wide variety of disciplines and have experienced a plethora of different teaching styles in this medium.

Also, being the president of WSU Global Campus’ online student government, I’ve interacted with many students, hearing about their successes and their obstacles. Based on these experiences, I hope to provide a student perspective on how instructors can help students succeed while teaching at a distance.

Your Presence is Essential

One of the instructional characteristics most valued by online learners is a strong presence in the course space. There are many ways to do this, but here are two methods that stand out in my experience:

  • Still present course material. Though reading assignments and discussion posts are great learning tools in the online space, there’s no substitute for an instructor synthesizing and simplifying information in a presentation. Whether you choose to present the material live (via a tool like Zoom) or recorded, online students like to have the opportunity to see your face and engage with you and the course material.
  • Set up “open office hours”. One great method of interacting and engaging with online students is setting up open office hours over Zoom. This gives student the ability to interact directly with you and get any extra help they might need. This is one of the most effective ways of connecting with your students and simulating the experience of being on a physical campus.

Communication is Key

In the minds of many online students, there is no such thing as “too much” communication from their instructor. Hearing regularly from their instructors makes them feel connected, informed, and empowered to meet the course objectives. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Use the announcements feature- This feature of the Blackboard course space is a great tool for reminding students about important assignments, following up on overall progress, or sending out a weekly check in.
  • Create a space specifically for communicating with students- Create a page within the course space with FAQs, expectations, communication opportunities, and information about the overall structure of the course. It’s also a great idea to create a “questions for the instructor” discussion thread to allow students to ask questions. Trust me, students check that thread frequently to see if their question has already been answered.
  • Communicate clear expectations and give feedback- It’s important to students to know what you expect of them. With assignments, be as clear about your expectations as possible. When grading, leave comments with clear ways that students can improve. Respond to discussion posts if you can, and let students know what you think about their work and thought process. A little bit of responsiveness goes a long way.

Finally, know that you are not alone, and that help is available. Teaching at a distance is a skillset that takes time and experience to develop. While there are many tips and tricks to teaching at a distance, it would be unrealistic to ask instructors to master them all in this time frame.

Academic Outreach and Innovation is an amazing resource for distance learning. They offer many workshops and direct support for instructors. They are experts in this field and are eager to help. Be sure to explore the Learning Innovations site to learn more and get any help you might need.

As a student myself, I know that your students will appreciate all your efforts during this time of transition.

Morgan Atwood
ASWSU Global President