I know this post is late, but I thought to try and catch up any way. I took notes on all the webinars for last week. The time difference makes it difficult to attend, but I like to watch and pause to take notes, so that's alright for me. I found it interesting that there might be such a thing as using a human touch in an online learning learning environment. The concept sounds a little dichotomous to me.
The main point of all the discussions was to try to build relationships between the instructor and students and between students as well. It is not enough to just get students to enroll in classes, it is important to help them finish their programs. While the online environment is ideal for some students, there are drawbacks. One big issue is that the retention rate of students in an online environment is lower than that of face to face. There could be many reasons. They may lose interest or the learning pace that instructors might set might be too difficult. In order to try and maintain the interests of the students, Professor John Thompson of Global Learning Institute Inc., suggested many ways to engage online students, the most important of these is to keep the lines of communication open with your students. He makes some suggestions that are not difficult to implement, but can mean a world of difference in building rapport. One suggestion was to use audiovisual tools. Dr. Kaulbach of Sarasota University also suggested the use of video to communicate with students. The two agree that the best way to promote learning and engage students is to foster a rapport with students, establish best times for student-teacher communication, provide guidance and examples of work to encourage student productivity, and most of all to communicate, communicate, communicate.
What type of student enrolls in an online class? Most are older adults, employed, and busy. I fit into that category. They may register for online instruction because the hours are more flexible than face to face instruction. I think that more and more students will be taking online courses and these students will be undergraduates just out of high school. Maybe they will take the courses because they like the flexibility in hours, but I also think they will take online courses because they are used to communicating in a digital world and might prefer learning that way.