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Thursday, July 14, 2011

APUS Webinar Series on Teaching Online in Community Colleges

Mary Dereshiwsky on Keys to Becoming an Effective Online Instructor: Dealing with Challenging Students... and More

Seven Keys to Success
Key 1:  You shouldn't have to be a techie -- find some support.

Key 2:  It's all about continual engagement.  Review the post from her last presentation.

Key 3:  Let them see you mess up -- humanizes you, lessens student fear.

Key 4:  New can be better -- this one might resonate with everyone looking at a change in LMS.  It's a chance to review your course, make some of the changes you have been thinking about.  Stretch is good.

Key 5:  Empathy - walk a mile in their shoes.  Keep being a student, keep taking seminars, keep taking classes.  Be very visible to your students, especially at the beginning of the term.  Respond promptly, post a FAQ, login frequently.  Use a lot of "I" statements.

Key 6:    Be yourself and convey your own personality in your classes.

Key 7:  Get a life!  You need to take one day off each week.  Don't stay online 24/7

Challenging Students

Mary Bart: Dealing with Difficult Online Students,
Trigger #1: Start-up jitters

Your course is different from the last one they took.  Can generate an avalanche of email. Consider reaching out via phone.  Work on humanizing yourself.  Be sure you field questions as quickly as possible - move email to discussion area so everyone can see answers.

If they are "lost" ask them to tell you one thing that is confusing, so you can untangle that one thing. 

Trigger #2: Technology

Ask students to make a back-up plan for getting to class if their computer breaks down (car analogy).  Give them locations of labs, but also help them come up with other alternatives - library, friend, work, etc.  

Make sure students know about extra software early.
Be careful of timezones.

Trigger #3:  Communication Related

Text only causes issues.  Remember you are dealing with a real person.  Bring up hot-buttons early - include a plagiarism discussion.  Share netiquette links.  Walk away if a student slams you and think about it.  Stay polite!  Reach out to the student, use the phone.  Post a reminder to all students. "It's okay to disagree with an idea, but it's not okay to attack a person."

Call on students in the discussion area.  Help them stay active.

Alicia Shepard "A's for Everyone"  at the Washington Post,
Trigger #4:  Challenges of Group Work

Use a group contract. (Developed by the groups.)  It should include an initial plan for conflict resolution.

Trigger #5: PTSD

As many of 31% of the military population who has been deployed my have PTSD.  Many of the 400,000 military students taking classes are taking online classes.  These students may have trouble staying on topic and may have high anxiety.  Habitual flaming may be a signal.  Reach out to them and ask what is bothering them.  Be able to recommend your school's support center.  Call the support center yourself and find out what they recommend.  VA also has resources available online. (APUS is 70% military students, so this is an important topic for them.)


It's not about you.  Keep problems in perspective.  Don't make them personal.  Do some reading and investigation.  Most of the triggers are not about you, they are a part of the student's situation.  Reach out to difficult students in a positive way. 

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