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Distance Instructor Tips

Here are some tips that can make Web-based class experiences more rewarding for both you and your students:

1. Remember that the part-time students in your class may be a slightly different population than traditional full-time students.

Some of your students will work full-time jobs, have kids, spouses, and sometimes (unfortunately) major illnesses. Most are sacrificing a great deal to take even a couple classes each term. For this reason, most really want to learn, not just make it through the course (although they want that too). In most cases, they will not make excuses for failing to submit work on time; rather, they will take responsibility for not doing something. Ideally, you can trust them to accept a great deal of responsibility for their own learning, which is very important for students to succeed in a Web-based course.

2. Keep careful records (both online and hard copies).

It will save you time and trouble in the long run.

3. Remember that as the instructor of the course you are teaching, it is your job to help students succeed.

You can't make sure they succeed, but you do want to do all that you can to facilitate your students' learning in your course: help them understand what will be expected of them; really listen to their feedback when they offer it; if you see confusion brewing on a Discussion Board thread (even if the students don't know they are veering off track), speak up and try to help clarify things for your students or create a path back to the relevant course issues.

4. Respond quickly and often to student questions.

It will save you time and grief in the long run. Studies show that if you do not respond to students in a timely fashion (that is, according to the schedule you have told them to expect), you can expect the number of messages you receive to increase by as much as three times the amount you would otherwise receive.

5. Reassure your students that you will work with them and help them through rough spots (both technology- and content-related) if needed.

You will be rewarded for doing this by having a more relaxed class and a happier one, too (read: fewer panicked e-mails and better course evals). The first few weeks can be tough because your students are anxious about doing a writing course and doing it online.

6. Always respond to student questions, complaints, and concerns by saying, “Thank you for asking about. . .” or “Thanks for letting me know of your concerns, [name]” or “Good question, [name].”

Since tone over e-mail is hard to convey, doing this will create some room for you to say what you need to say firmly and directly without being heard as being inconsiderate or lacking in understanding.

7. Always end e-mails and Discussion Board posts which respond to student questions, complaints, and concerns or make announcements about work due by saying, “Does this help?’ or “I hope this helps" or "Please let me know if you have any questions.”

You can’t say this enough for them. They come to you anxious and wanting to succeed. They will often tell you, “Yes, it is clear now. Thank you.”

8. Keep as few icons on your WVU eCampus course homepage as possible to streamline things for students.

In other words, do not have multiple links to the same content, schedule of work due, etc.

9. Reflect on your own experience of the course periodically.

This can help you make important adjustments to how you are using your time and energy to work with your Web-based students—which can, in turn, help students' experiences of the course. For example, are you spending so much time responding to individual e-mail that you have less energy for responding to student writing? If so, you might consider posting some of your responses to student questions to the Discussion Board, to head off other student queries about the same issue, assignment, technology glitch, etc.

10. Feel free to ask the Distance Writing Coordinator if you have a question, concern, or complaint, or if your students do and you’re not sure how to respond.

I am quite happy to help, even with the small stuff.

 

© 2013, Center for Writing Excellence, WVU Department of English

Questions about specific online writing courses or the online PWE sequence? Email Jill Woods, the Coordinator of the Distance Writing Program at WVU
.