Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Five Things Students Want Their Teachers to Know about Online Learning

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.


  1. Social networks such as facebook and YouTube as well as great resources including Wikipedia and Wolfram-Alpha are here to stay so that educators must use them in the teaching process. Many academics are posting great educational videos and materials online. The only problem is to sort the good ones from the rest and present them in an organized manner.

    Online Self-learning is becoming fast the perfect choice of learning, especially with so many great educational videos available for free. The only problem is to sort the good ones from the rest and present them in an organized manner.

    This effort is being done by: http://Utubersity.com which presents the best educational videos available on YouTube in an organized, easy to find way to watch and learn.

    They are classified and tagged in a way that enables people to find these materials more easily and efficiently and not waste time browsing through pages of irrelevant search results.

    The website also enhances the experience using other means such as recommending related videos, Wikipedia content and so on. There's also a Spanish version called http://utubersidad.com

    This is a project that YouTube should embrace itself, with curated content from academics and maybe using a different URL (Youtubersity?) so it won’t be blocked by schools.

  2. Hi, I recently was in a globaed11 conference about two schools connecting (USA-El Salvador). Now, one of the aspects that called my attention was the fact that one of the conditions of the project was not to put up any picture of themselves or their families. I do understand not putting up pictures of your family. Are there any issues teachers worldwide have experienced when their kids put ut their own pics on a blog? Thank you.

  3. Thank you for sharing this information. I am new to the virtual education world and have wondered about these things.

  4. Lack of socialization is the main reason that students leave the online school I work for. They don't go out into their communities to experience things and without their schoosl they don't have much to do. I feel the same as the students. Most of my friends live pretty far away and because I have to use an IP phone it isn't as easy to to teach from anywhere as I would have hoped. It is very isolating to be home all the time.

    I also find that most kids arent't interested in me so much or really interested in seeing me live in a sesion, etc. so I don't really use those tools it's enough to just get them to complete an assignment.

  5. The first advice is very crucial. Teachers have to do it appropriately, because if socialization is done too much it can create a different relationship to the students. Just a precaution though.

  6. Well yeah, there are some sort of things teaches also need to know and hear about from their students about online learning that uses lms learning management system. for getting certification or course or training etc. But, teachers are still important and are needed in learning as they are the one who guides students through learning.