When teaching online or remotely, opportunities for connection with students must be intentionally built into the course. These opportunities are a critical feature of a positive online learning environment. Good communication between teacher and student, as well as student-to-student can ease or even erase the feelings of frustration, isolation and confusion that can fester when teacher and students are not in the same space together.
Open the door to connection
Establishing a line of communication between teacher and students can begin before the class starts. One to two weeks before class starts, consider sending a "Welcome Email" to your students. Because your students are not entering a physical classroom, they may feel uneasy about when their classes will start and what to expect. Your welcome email can let them know when the course opens, remind them about required textbooks, and set general expectations about class participation or how the course will work. It is also a time for student to get to know you through the more informal channel of email.
Sending your class a weekly email at the start of each week is great way to engage students on a regular basis. If your online course is designed with weekly modules that open each Monday, consider sending an email before each week starts. These emails might contain a bulleted list of assignments and readings for the week, like a "mini-syllabus." Because students taking asynchronous online courses do not meet at regular intervals, it is possible that a student can forget to participate. Your weekly email can activate your students and mentally prepare them for the week ahead.
Click here for a sample weekly email.
Every Canvas course has a feature called "Announcements." This is a tool for sharing information with your class. When you add an Announcement, it will be featured prominently at the top of your course, so students can see the latest announcement every time they log into Canvas. Note that this feature can send Announcements directly to the student's CBU email, but not all students have configured Canvas to do this. This is why it is recommended to use CBU email to communicate with students. Canvas Announcements, however, can be a good ancillary tool for communicating with students.