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10 Must Know Tips for Teaching the Online Student

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 3/9/2010

If you could incorporate a few simple but far reaching suggestions into your distance learning curriculum, would you do it? What if they had the power to keep the online student from dropping out of their online education? Read on and find 10 such tips for teaching the online student.

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    Enjoying the Online Community

    Even though the interactions with an online student are virtual, they are by no means less enjoyable than those you might experience at a brick and mortar college. Bright Hub’s own Laurie Patsalides wrote an article proving that “There are Definite Benefits of Teaching Online,” and as an instructor you are sure to agree.

    With online education being the way future learners will attain most of their training, it pays now to learn about inspiring these students to make online learning a workable solution for each one of them. At the same time, becoming savvy about teaching online at this juncture may greatly increase your future employability at a college online.

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    10 Must Know Tips for Teaching Online

    There is a collection of 10 must know tips for teaching online that you should be aware of immediately. They make the experience pleasant, profitable, and -- most of all -- irresistible to the online learner.

    1. Engage each student from the start of the class. Semesters are comprised of quarterly scheduled classes with a densely packed curriculum. It is easy for an online learner to become overwhelmed and perhaps even consider dropping out of distance learning. If you are hands on – on a personal level – with each student from the first day of class, you recognize the warning signs of a student who is ready to call it quits.

    2. Learn about your students’ motivation for pursuing a degree or course online. Addressing a hobbyist is a lot different from working with a student who is working on climbing the next rung on the corporate ladder. Know what makes your students tick, and you will create an environment they will not walk away from.

    3. Involve the students with their peers. Distance learning can be a solitary endeavor. At the same time, the advent of social networking sites and other social media has presented you with a host of teaching venues that allow even an isolated student to interact with peers. Getting the peer group going is up to you.

    4. Include time management skills in your curriculum. Even if you are teaching mathematics or the fine points of English literature, include a section on time management in your curriculum. Briefly touch on actionable time management tips and tricks, and you may be preventing an online learner from getting overbooked and tempted to quit the course or courses.

    5. Respect the student’s life outside of college. Online instructors sometimes forget that the demographics involve those who may have the least amount of time to spare: busy professionals with families. Assign only necessary homework and offer discretionary assignments to those in need of extra credit or with extra time.

    6. Address students’ learning styles. If you manage to include visual and auditory learning in addition to kinesthetic instruction, you will have the majority of learning styles covered. This could be difficult in the virtual classroom, but with the help of various online apps that allow for auditory and visual teaching means, you can create a course up with a multimedia twist.

    7. Outline the student’s expected basic tech know-how in the syllabus. If you will make copious use of chat rooms, underscore the importance for students to have a speedy Internet connection and also type at 40+ words per minute. Students who do not meet these requirements will be frustrated when attempting to interact with others in the chat room. This leads to the temptation to drop out.

    8. Recognize a lack of technical savvy. Your online student most likely knows how to use a computer, but does s/he know how to navigate around Twitter? Never assume that your learner is well versed in the various applications that are useful for this mode of learning. As a matter of fact, offer a mini course on tech savvy as part of your distance learning classroom setting. This could be something as simple as a YouTube video.

    9. Offer additional tutoring. In some cases a student may fall behind with assignments. Differentiate between the online student who had life issues to attend to versus the student who needs a bit of extra tutoring to understand some of the course materials. Offer tutoring as needed.

    10. Proactively advise students of grants, scholarship availabilities, and other money saving opportunities. Financial hardships – according to Debbie Cavalier -- account for 41% of distance learning drop outs; you have the power to counteract this trend by offering money saving tips and information to your students as you learn about them.

    More advice for online instruction can be found right here at Bright Hub, from teaching the less tech savvy, detecting plagiarism, setting up the online course and more.