Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Part 3: The Hallway Conversation

Note: this is part 3 of 5 in the series "Overcoming the Challenges of Online Learning"

Having taught in a traditional classroom for five years, I have come to realize the some of the most important and influential moments do not occur "between the bells." It's the conversations that occur while students are coming into class or heading to lunch that frequently have the greatest impact. Consider what Seth Godin says: 
"[relationships] with people are arguably a more valuable creation than the fish that were caught or the physics that were learned..." [source]

Simulating informal conversations that build relationship in an online environment is challenging. The solution we have come up with is to give all of our online students Gmail accounts (Google Apps for Education) and ask them to keep their email open when they are doing their school work. We have the Google Talk (video and text chat) turned on which allows teachers, if they are available, to initiate a conversation with a student on a spontaneous basis.

I am not fully satisfied with our use of this feature yet. Students frequently forget to keep their email open and not all of my faculty are aware of how to see if a student is online and how to initiative a conversation with them. We have some room for improvement!
Image from The Gates Foundation via Flickr

Check out my other posts in this series:
1. Lousy, Inflexible Course Content - making your courses better.

2. Is that your work? - Overcoming the challenge of cheating. 
3. The Hallway Conversation - finding ways to encourage authentic conversations between students and instructors.

4. Pacing and Scheduling - helping students stay on schedule and learn discipline.

5. How does this work? - providing first hand experience to families who have no clue.

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