Communication is the Key to Online Learning

Communication, communication, communication – much like location, location, location – is a vital part of the online learning environment for students.

Imagine yourself as a student in an online course. The instructor has added content, assignments, and discussions – loaded with great learning resources like videos, articles, simulations, or demonstrations – but has never once participated in a discussion or provided feedback except for a numeric grade. That experience might not showcase the faculty talent that students have come to expect from Miami University.

As Miami faculty, your experience, knowledge, guidance, and feedback are all essential to creating a quality learning experience for your students. In your face-to-face class, you provide support by meeting with students, answering questions, and offering guidance or encouragement. You probably wouldn’t give students a topic and then walk out of the room with the instruction of “talk amongst yourselves”. In an online class, if you post a discussion prompt and never participate, you are essentially telling the students to “talk amongst yourselves”. We can expect that the discussion will quickly be derailed.

In an online course, lack of involvement on the instructor’s part comes across as indifference. Students easily pick up on whether or not the instructor is an active participant from day one. If you ask your students to introduce themselves and don’t do the same, the conversation becomes one-sided.

So what is the magic number of hours a day, or week, that instructors need to be actively engaged in student learning when teaching an online course? The answer is a question – how much time do you spend in a face-to-face classroom, meeting with students, grading work, providing feedback, and preparing for the next lesson or unit? Instructors should be as active in an online course as they are in an on-ground course. Be seen and be heard – after all, you are the guide to learning.