The physical space of a campus blends student support into the learning environment: on the first day of school, students taking face-to-face courses walk onto campus, stroll past the library, the Writing Center, and their advisor’s office on the way to your class. They greet their classmates who, a few weeks into the semester, are the ones they will ask when they’re confused about your instructions.
Meanwhile, many of your online students logged into Blackboard, found the link to your course and got started. When these students have a question about the homework, how to use Blackboard, or how to get extra help with a writing assignment, they may not know where to go. But just like on the physical campus, we have resources in the online environment to support students.
You and your online course are part of UAF’s eLearning community—make that community visible to your students!
Direct students to tech help
Technical expertise is among the top barriers to student success in distance education.1 UAF’s OIT helpdesk, eLearning’s Online Success Lab and staff help students develop agility with the technical tools that an online learning environment requires:
OIT Helpdesk is available via phone, email, and chat at all hours of the day to walk students through all technical barriers from Blackboard, to email, to Google Drive.
eLearning on Blackboard: All students enrolled in eLearning courses have a UAF eLearning tab at the top of their Blackboard interface. By navigating to the Student Services section within this tab, they can access advising services and our own Online Success Lab, which will teach them how to use the Blackboard interface.
WordPress Tutorials are available for classes that use WordPress to facilitate discussion and student publishing. Find the basics here.
Using a tool in your class and you want help introducing it to students? UAF eLearning can help! Attend Virtual Open Labs and other events: https://iteachu.uaf.edu/events/
Just as many face-to-face students thrive when they have access to academic support outside of your classroom, online students ought to have the same opportunity. Help them connect to one-on-one help in Math, English, and library research at UAF.
- UAF’s Writing Center offers phone tutorials for students outside of Fairbanks, and face-to-face tutorials for those who can make it to campus.
- UAF’s CTC Learning Center offers an Online Writing Lab for fully online writing tutorials.
- Math Lab offers online tutoring for students enrolled in math courses.
- Rasmuson Library has a series of tutorials that orient students to using their databases for online research.
Students in online courses report feeling disconnected from their instructor and peers. Research shows that communication methods and instructor presence can address this challenge.2
- Be email-available: Incorporate a policy on instructor response time into your syllabus and stick to it. Let your students know how to reach you (particularly if email is not best) and when they can expect to hear back.
- Create a Virtual Office: Meet students in your virtual office—a stable link to a google hangout where you can schedule video chats with your students. Let students know that during your “office hours” they can expect to hear back from you immediately if they email, call, or chat.
- To create your office, simply create an event in your google calendar, choose “Add a video call” in the Edit menu and copy the link to that call. That hangout link will be good even after the event you created is over. Alternatively, skip the video and turn your office into a dedicated time rather than a dedicated space.
- Let students help each other: Create a discussion forum for students to talk, ask questions, and help one another. You might even award extra credit to those who check in and respond to their peers’ questions.
1 Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student barriers to online learning: A factor analytic study. Distance Education, 26(1), 29-48.
2 Richardson, J., Koehler, A., Besser, E., Caskurlu, S., Lim, J. & Mueller, C. (2015). Conceptualizing and Investigating Instructor Presence in Online Learning Environments. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(3), 256-297.
Instructional Designer, Kendell Newman Sadiik & eLearning Student Success Specialist, Faith Fleagle share a passion for increasing access and opportunities in higher education for all students.