Maintain your Online Presence & Hold Virtual and/or Face-to-Face Office Hours
Ensure you are highly visible to your students and stay involved in your course so students do not feel like they are on their own! Work to inspire effort on their part, keep them engaged and active in their course learning community, and responsible for their own learning. Check in regularly by logging in an interacting with your students so they can sense your presence. Keep tabs on your students through checking login activity through the Performance Dashboard to see if students are regularly participating and logging in. You can also use the Performance Dashboard as well as the Grade Center to check on the grades of students and proactively contact them if they are not submitting assignments or are not performing well. If you see students that are not engaged, email and contact them. Let your students know when and how they can contact you. If you are teaching fully online, consider using Blackboard Instant Messanging to hold virtual office hours.
Interested in learning more about online instructor presence? Check out this article written by Tony Bates who is a consultant in e-learning and distance education.
Nine Steps to Quality Online Learning: Step 8: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
“Research has clearly indicated that ‘perceived instructor presence’ is a critical factor for online student success and satisfaction. Students need to know that the instructor is following the online study activities of students and is actively participating during the delivery of the course.”
“The reasons for this are obvious. Online students often study from home, and if they are fully online may never meet another student on the same course. They do not get the important non-verbal cues from the instructor or other students, such as the stare at a stupid question, the intensity in presentation that shows the passion of the instructor for the topic, the ‘throwaway’ comment that indicates the instructor doesn’t have much time for a particular idea, or the nodding of other students’ heads when another student makes a good point or asks a pertinent question. An online student does not have the opportunity for a spontaneous discussion by bumping into the instructor in the corridor.”
“However, a skilled instructor can create just as compelling a learning environment online, but it needs to be deliberately planned and designed. It also has to be done in such a way that the instructor’s workload can be controlled.”
Post Weekly Announcements and Reminders
When you post an announcement, you have the ability to send it as an email to your class as well. Post weekly messages to let students know what is coming up, and give them a sense of your presence in the course. Let students know that you've graded all of the tests or assignments from the previous week.
Read and Respond to Discussion Postings
Be an active participant on the discussion boards in your course. While it is not necessary for you to respond to every single post, your students will be able to sense whether you are present in the discussion board or not. Be sure to redirect a discussion if it is going in the wrong direction. If you are grading students on their posts, then be sure to enter their grades in the Grade Center.
Update and Release Content as Needed
Check for changes (such as dates) within your content areas. Just about every piece of content you build in your course can be set to release at specific dates. Use this to your advantage in setting the pace of the course.
Grade Quizzes and Adjust Quiz Settings as Needed
If you use short answer or paragraph questions in your assessments, you will see a green box with an exclamation point in Needs Grading or the Full Grade Center when you have a submission to grade. Be sure to provide timely feedback.
Grade Assignments Uploaded to the Assignment Tool
When using the Assignment drop box, students can upload files. You will see a green box with an exclamation point in Needs Grading or the Full Grade Center when you have a submission to grade. You open the files and enter a grade with comments. This grade automatically appears in the My Grades area. Be sure to provide timely feedback.
Consider creating surveys to get feedback on your course from students and check the results of the survey. Instead of waiting for the end of the semester feedback, consider adding a survey at the midterm to identify small areas where you might be able to make immediate improvements in the course.
Manage your Time
Use your first semester teaching online to determine how you will manage the course. If you are spending hours of time revising the content and grading, make adjustments. If you are recieving a high volume of email traffic, consider creating an FAQ blog with some of the most commonly asked questions and answers and directing students to that resource before they email you.
Communicate to your students when you will be available and what they can expect from you as turnaround times for grading and answering emails. If your assignments are due Sundays at midnight, you will most likely see a peak in questions from students right before the deadline. If you are not available on Sundays to answer questions, consider moving the deadlines to a different time such as Fridays at midnight.
Build a Support System
Don’t go it alone. Before attempting to integrate the online environment with your course, talk to others who have experience! There are also many resources available in Distance Learning & Instructional Technologies such as instructional design assistance and technology tools available through the digital initiative, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance!
Also, be sure students are aware of the support services available to them!