Five Things Students Want Their Teachers to Know about Online Learning

12/19/2011 12:00:00 AM
Kids love having the opportunity to learn online but it’s not merely the medium or the technology that students enjoy. At the recent iNacol Virtual Schools Symposium I listened to high school students who have experience learning this way as well as teachers who have experience with these students, share some advice for making this type of learning even better.

Here is their advice, as well as suggestions for tools that teachers can use to heed this advice.

Advice for Online Learning Educators

1. Socialization is important!
Teenagers value the ability to socialize and they don’t want to lose that online. Provide opportunities for students to meet, get to know each other, work together, and connect deeply in your online classes.  Teens want you to make it fun for them. While they certainly enjoy the benefits of working independently, they appreciate opportunities to work in pairs, groups, and with other class members.  Help foster this by creating projects and online spaces for them to work this way.
  • Skype or Google Video: Great for projects where students work in pairs. 
  • Google+ Hangout: Works well for students meeting and working in groups.  
  • Facebook Page: Wonderful for whole class discussion and interaction in a space where other experts and students can participate.  
  • Fieldtrips: Give students opportunties to learn together in the world. 

2. Students Want to See Each Other
Students want to have a chance to get to know their classmates just as they can in a face-to-face environment.  This means seeing one another so they can put a name and a personality with a face.
  • Web cam: Teachers may want to consider having times when their students are the ones who have the ability to be on the web cam.  
  • Google+ Hangout: Schedule groups of up to ten students with Google+ Hangout so students and their teacher can see one another as they talk, learn, and discuss their area of study.
  • Video:  Provide opportunities for students to submit work using video response shared in a place where other students can watch, comment, and discuss. 
  • UStream: Allow students to present to their classmates (and authentic audiences) using UStream. Encourage classmates to leave text and video comments on one another's work.
  • Use Flickr to easily create instant slideshows that capture students via picture or video sharing their thoughts, feedback, and ideas.

3. Students Want to See Their Teacher
Students want to get to know who their teacher is.  Seeing them helps.  They appreciate the ability to see their teacher speaking to them.
  • Webcams: Use a web cam if possible so your students can see you. 
  • Skype: Students enjoy using Skype so they can see their teacher and their teacher can see them.
  • Video: Consider giving students feedback with a video.

4. Students Want You to Know Them 
It is important to online students that you know who they are.  Provide opportunities in their work for them to include something personal. This might be pictures of them and their life or  thoughts from members of their family or community. Set up times where you can engage in one-on-one chats. Reach out to your students via text to help make a personal connection using a tool they love.
  • Video: Encourage students to use video in their work where you have the opportunity to see and get to know them.  You may want to consider having them create channels on a video service like YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Glogster: Have students create digital posters that include text as well as photos and video.  
  • Set up group texting to quickly and easily send students reminders, encouragement, important information, and learning tips/ideas/suggestions.
5. Keep it Relevant
Just like face-to-face classes, students complain that what they learn online often seems irrelevant to their lives.  Students want to know why they need to know this stuff.  Consider providing an explanation with each unit or chapter that addresses this.
  • Video: Have former students explain to students how they've used this learning in the real world.
  • YouTube: Bring the learning to life with video clips that connect this learning to how it occurs or is applied in life.  
  • Skype and Expert: Invite an expert to speak to your class about the real-world relevance of this learning.
Students appreciate the opportunity to learn online, but want their teachers to be sure to incorporate these elements which allow them to realize the benefits of online learning while not losing what they enjoy about face-to-face interactions.  With this advice and these tools in mind, teachers will be sure to provide their students with a more positive online learning experience.
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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