I am often asked “What is the one thing we could do to improve the students’ experience of learning?” From my many years of reading student feedback, the answer is very clear. Over and above everything else, students value their relationship with their teachers. When they have a good relationship and feel their teacher cares about them and their learning, they have a great experience. But when they don’t, it’s far from a good experience.

Here are some of the things students who had a good experience said in the recent Student Feedback Survey:

I think [academic] really made the most out of the circumstances this semester and showed he really cared about students and their learning – this is the most important thing. He made sure to upload videos, facilitate lectures and put in extra time to help us out with assignments. As a result, I feel like I was able to do better.

I think the best part about this subject was that you connected to us – you understood our situation, the stress and anxiety that we have had because of COVID – and you related. And that was the best part – it made it easier to come to class, do the work properly. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! For all your effort and behind the scenes work, thank you!

In this move to online learning, students really miss the face-to-face to contact with academics and would like more of a personal connection (‘teacher presence’) in the online environment. Here are 5 ways this can be achieved:

Communicate regularly, and mix it up

  • Post a weekly announcement with updates, general comments on discussions, references to upcoming assignments or links to relevant current events.
  • Create variety by introducing a podcast or video. 

Say when and where you’re available

  • Let students know when you’ll be checking discussion boards or responding to emails.
  • Offer defined times for Zoom or Teams consultations or Q&A sessions. 

Give feedback throughout the session

  • Consider recording a video with short but personal and specific feedback on assessment tasks, or host a review session in Zoom.
  • Save time by building automated feedback into quizzes.

Actively participate in class discussions

Getting involved in class discussions, whether through the LMS, Zoom or Teams, gives a boost to teacher presence.

Check-in with your students regularly

Ask “how are you going?” Students’ concerns might be really informative and touch on things you have never anticipated.

Finally, I have posted this link before and many say they found it useful so here it is again. Teacher presence could be thought of as ‘being human, being present and being adaptable’ and is the theme of this webinar (60 minutes, but actually around 30 minutes followed by questions) about keeping students engaged as they learn online.  

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