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Your regular presence and engagement in your online class is a key factor in student satisfaction and success. And research shows that students who feel a sense of personal connection with their instructor are more likely to stick with the class throughout the semester.

Make a personal connection right from the start

  • Include an icebreaker in Module 1. (See Icebreakers & Refreshers for ideas.)
  • Reach out to students individually through the Mailbox, welcoming them to the class and encouraging them to ask questions.
  • Introduce yourself in the Welcome topic with a video, and include some personal information to help students connect with you.

Leave footprints

As you know, one of our standards for online instructors require that you check into your classes at least once a day, six days a week, and leave some token of your presence when you do. By a "token," we mean a visible sign that you have been in the class. We sometimes refer to this practice as leaving "footprints" in the class, so that students know you are present.

Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Answer students' questions. When a student asks a question—in the Discussion or through the Mailbox—she should be able to expect a response from you within one business day. (This is one of our basic expectations for online instructors.)
  • Post an announcement.
  • Post a weekly update video each week, with wrap-up information for the previous module and introductory information for the upcoming module.
  • For assignments:
    • Clarify the assignment instructions — and what you're looking for
    • Offer tips for completing the assignment successfully
    • Highlight common mistakes students make — and how to avoid them
    • Share an example of the work of a student from a previous semester with an explanation of its strengths and weaknesses
    • Critique assignments (publicly) or participate in a critique discussion.
  • In discursive classes, participate in the current discussion by reading and responding to students' comments, posting follow-up questions, sharing new material, etc.
    • Post an introduction at the start of a module — or a wrap-up at the end of the module.
    • Ask a new question that takes the discussion in a different direction
    • Respond to student comments
    • Post something from the news that's relevant to the class
    • Share comments that deepen or broaden students' understanding of a key concept from the current module

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Take Advantage of Notifications

When you make a new post in any topic, all your students receive a notification. When you grade or critique or comment on an individual student’s work, that student receives a notification. (Learn more about Notifications for Students)

Make Your Presence Visible

Before you get started posting messages and answering questions in your class, we recommend that you decide on a signature text style for your posts—a particular color and perhaps a different font. Using a signature style in all your posts makes your contributions more visible to students and helps them quickly find your answers to their questions. Figure out how you want to present yourself in text and then use that style consistently throughout the semester.

Learn more

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