While online learning is often referred to as distance learning, a “distant” education really isn’t as distant as you may think.
The truth is that as an online learner, there are ample resources available to you that more traditional classroom learners do not have. Especially as a TEL student, you have tons of opportunities to engage with others, including your peers and instructors! It is truly in your best interest to take advantage of these, as doing so will not only create a more enjoyable learning experience for you, but also for everyone else in the course too!
So, what are some resources you can use to create an interactive online learning environment? Let’s explore!
Before we get started, do you know who your instructor is? In your TEL course, your instructor will create a personal introduction video for you. That’s right! There is a real human being sitting behind the computer ready to help you with anything you may need! Watch your instructor’s introduction video and get to know them. Knowing who will be teaching you will help to make your learning more personal, and it will help with accountability when you’re not in the mood to complete an assignment. It won’t just be a robot who knows you skipped it.
For some reason, students often have a fear of reaching out to instructors. Please get out of this mindset right away! It is perfectly okay, and even encouraged to reach out to your instructor, and as often as you need! Every instructor has an email, so make sure to email your instructor directly. All TEL instructor emails follow the same format — firstname.lastname@example.org — and will be responded to promptly, usually within 24 business hours.
Your instructor cannot help you if you do not reach out. If they do not hear from you, they will assume all is well. So reach out with any questions or concerns you may have. To ease any email-composing anxiety, here are some tips for drafting an email to an instructor.
Did you know that you also receive weekly emails from your instructor for each course you take? These emails are a great way to not only see what you will be learning and what assignments will be due during the week but also to connect with your instructor. In some of these emails, your instructor might include more personalized videos or articles. Look for these emails, and do not ignore them. They might seem small, but they will help you to feel more connected to your learning.
In today’s edition of “resources you thought you were missing out on with online learning,” we have office hours! While it may seem silly to have office hours without a physical “office” to meet in, this is one resource you don’t want to skip. Your instructor holds dedicated office hours each week, and you are encouraged to come with any questions, or just to say hey! If you want to have a one-on-one conference with your instructor, you are encouraged to request one. Your instructor is rooting for your success and they want you to reach out, so never feel like you can’t communicate with your instructor.
Depending on the course you are in, you might have discussion boards to engage in. Think of discussions as the heart of an online class. Take discussions seriously and be as active as you can in them. In a traditional classroom, you interact with your classmates and have ongoing conversations verbally. When you think about it, online discussions are the same thing, just presented differently. Come back often, respond to your classmates’ postings, and look at any responses you’ve received. Doing so will only help to create a stronger classroom community.
In your TEL course, if you log in and look at the top right corner of the page, you should see a bell symbol between the home button and your avatar. This is where you will see any notifications and it is yet another way for your instructor to interact with you. This is how you will know if your instructor has sent you a messenger posted a course-wide notification. Click on this bell whenever you log into the course!
If you take nothing else from this, know that you are never alone on your learning journey with TEL. Seriously, never! If you take advantage of any and every resource available to you, you will be successful in bridging that distance learning gap and creating the best learning environment possible!
Caleb Lamont is the instructor for TEL’s Introduction to Communication. Caleb has more than six years of experience teaching communication studies in both online and in-person settings. He has been working with TEL for more than two years.