Instructors key in creating a supportive online learning environment
Throughout my education, I have had some wonderful teachers. They were positive, enthusiastic, effective in managing their classroom, insightful in their lessons and genuinely cared about their students. As an instructor new to University of Phoenix, I plan on following the great examples of instructors who’ve impacted my life and make these characteristics a part of my own teaching philosophy.
As an online student for the majority of my graduate work, I can empathize with the needs and expectations of an adult learner who prefers to learn online because of their time constraints. In my courses, I try to create a positive environment, where a feeling of community is present. Although students can’t physically see each other, the key is to keep a student motivated to participate. The more students are engaged, the more insightful their discussions become.
Setting the tone for that level of engagement begins on the first day of class. It’s important to establish a sense of community right away and it’s vital that instructors give timely, useful, and constructive feedback to all students. Fostering a spirit of community and being clear in your expectations helps students to not only feel supported, but also to understand the time commitment involved with the class. More importantly, students should feel comfortable sharing their ideas with one another and collaborating on group projects online. As an instructor, I also have to be sensitive to the fact that every student has his or her own learning style and to the fact that students crave information that’s relevant to their desired field.
Being in the human resource management field, I often refer students to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which keeps a pulse on what is happening in the field. This organization offers great resources and informative articles for human resource professionals. I recently shared an SHRM article with students in my Employee Recruitment and Retention class which stated that in today’s job market four generations of Americans (veterans over the age of 65, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y) are actively seeking employment. This means anyone entering the human resources field needs to have an understanding of the cross-generational techniques needed when interviewing and retaining multi-generational employees (SHRM, 2010).
This multi-faceted approach to employee hiring is also relevant in retaining university students. The makeup of the traditional university student is evolving. University of Phoenix students are diverse with respect to gender, age, ethnicity, abilities and experiences, and their reasons for attending college vary from completing their degree to seeking a better job. Personally, I have found that the older the learner, the more personally invested they are in their education.
The biggest challenge to being academically successful is having the discipline to carve out the time to study. It’s not easy for students to maintain a work-life balance while attending University of Phoenix classes, but instructors have a hand in making it a more rewarding experience. As a university instructor, I’m always willing to listen and answer students’ questions. Specifically in an online environment, quick feedback is vitally important because online learning can sometimes feel isolating without a physical classroom where students can bounce ideas off of their classmates and instructors. To combat this, it’s pertinent for me to answer my students’ emails promptly and to maintain a positive tone in my responses. More importantly, I have to be ‘present’ in the course room and be prepared to intervene or mediate any conflicts that may arise. I also ensure that conversations continue in the classroom. It’s key that a consensus be reached and no disruption in the learning process occurs.
Clearly, this philosophy allows students to develop their skills and think critically on the course subject matter, and it also serves to reinforce what students have learned. My role is to provide support, encouragement, feedback, direction and clarification in the classroom. I can never lose sight of the fact that I’m there to help my students become active learners by fostering communication, collaboration and solid instruction.
Society for Human Resource Management. (2010, March 12). Diversity: Generations: What should employers consider when recruiting from different generations-Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y?.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.