Academia Series: How to Support Post-Secondary Students Online

Addressing Technical Challenges

This is the second of a series on academia we will be writing over the following weeks addressing the significant challenges—and opportunities—facing post-secondary institutions amid COVID-19.

If you’re in the world of academia, you know firsthand the seismic shift the move to online has been for many post-secondary institutions.

Academic institutes vary in their digital readiness and the effort to provide students with the content they need has been nothing short of colossal as universities and colleges move online.

But even after the technical challenges have been addressed, educators must learn how to best deliver the curriculum, as some institutions consider offering online learning as a mainstay even post-pandemic, while international studentsno longer able to enter the country due to the pandemicwill continue to rely on it amid travel restrictions.

Understanding how to support students in an asynchronous online learning environmentone in which students learn the same material at different times and locationswill be key to everyone’s success.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Show Up for Class

When you teach in person, it’s likely you keep office hours, during which students can ask you questions, clarify assignments and receive support outside the classroom. According to The Chronicle for Higher Education, active and meaningful engagement should also continue in an eLearning environment.

This can be achieved by setting up virtual office hours, responding to emails in a timely fashion, actively participating in online forums, creating sign-up sheets for students who would benefit from one-on-one or group video conferencing, or posting a quick video to clarify misconceptions about a class topic or assignment.

Explain Your Expectations

When you hand out an assignment to students in class, you likely spend time outlining expectations, answering questions and addressing concerns beyond the written instructions. The same applies to online.

Taking time to provide extra clarity can go a long way to supporting students who may grasp concepts differently online. Keep instructions short and simple, create a two-minute video explaining what you’d like to see while fleshing out some of the details, or share an example of a student’s work that earned top marks (or maybe even an example of what not to do so students can compare the two).

Help Students Help Each Other

Students lose out on the informal social learning supports when they’re not on campus togetherno more class discussions, no more meeting after class for coffee. And while post-secondary students are mature enough to reach out to each other if need be, supporting and encouraging that engagement by providing tools will make it that much easier for them to connect.

Create a student-only discussion forum for them to pose questions for each other and offer insights and experiences from their own learning, provide a link to a live session that’s open 24-7 for them to use, such as through Zoom rooms, or share a list of student emails and/or cell numbers to which they can easily refer.

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