Instructors teaching online face many challenges. Among them is how to overcome the sense of feeling disconnected with their students. How can they be present for students, create a sense of community, and encourage them to participate and engage with the course material? Is it even possible to make an online course feel like a face-to-face class?

Video Helps Create that All Important Connection Between Instructor and Student

Kate Bradford, Assistant Professor in Criminal Justice, Indian River State CollegeFor Echo360 academic champion Kate Bradford, assistant professor in Criminal Justice at Indian River State College, one tool that helps her meet these challenges is Echo360 video.

Bradford wanted to become more than a faceless avatar in her online courses and the focus of her Academic Champion grant award is to increase the connection between her and her students.

“One way for me to feel more connected when teaching online is to ‘attend class,’” says Bradford. Even though there are no set class hours, the steady stream of videos she provides throughout the term allow her to “check-in” with her online students just as she would in a traditional face-to-face class.

Using Echo360 Universal Capture, Bradford creates a wide-range of videos that she makes available to her online students throughout the semester. She “meets” with her students via discussion boards and email and encourages them to engage with the material she presents in the videos, as well as provide feedback on student discussions and assignments.

Because she regularly posts new videos in her online courses, Bradford says that students feel more like they are “attending class” even though they never physically step foot into a classroom. Bradford says that her students are more engaged and active in the course and the work they submit during the semester has improved from previous semesters.

Video Helps Instructor Explain Important Concepts and Review Student Work

Video is everywhere in Bradford’s online courses. She creates videos to introduce herself and make general announcements to students throughout the term.

“Echo360 video helps me break the ice,” says Bradford. “As a way of helping students to get to know me, I will even share photos of my family or talk about places in the area that I like to visit. It helps students feel they not just interacting with a computer, but with a real person,” she says.

But other videos play an important role ensuring students are able to make the most out of her class.

Bradford creates videos in Echo360 to highlight important information and concepts and introduce students to each module in their online course…

“I try to introduce each module either by using my PowerPoint presentation, by highlighting the important points from reading assignments, or by presenting information from other material I prepare,” says Bradford. “This helps students get a better grasp of the material and helps them understand what the key takeaways are.”

At the end of each module, Bradford creates videos where she highlights answers from student discussion boards or from individual or group assignments. This helps students review and also fosters a sense of an online learning community.

“I like to pick out threads from the discussion boards where students raise interesting points. Or, I will talk about what I think are the best examples from individual or group assignments.”

“Even though students are participating online, reviewing their work in this way helps them feel like they are part of the larger group. They’re not working alone in isolation. This is just one way in which video can be used to make an online course feel more like a traditional course on campus,” says Bradford.

Video Increases Instructor Presence and Improves Student Work

For Bradford, and more importantly for her students, the payoff from her increased presence is greater student engagement and improved work.

“The combination of video and online discussion has resulted in better work from my students,” says Bradford. “In an online course it sometimes can be easy for students to just copy and paste answers and reply by rote. But through video, students literally see me online. That helps break down barriers and students have felt more comfortable responding and asking questions. They now are thinking critically about the material being presented and are able to apply it in ways that I haven’t seen in my classes in the past,”says Bradford.

The work Bradford has put into creating video content for her courses has not gone unnoticed by her students.

“This course has been different from my other experiences,” says one student responding to an end-of-semester survey. “I usually take online classes, but I’ve never had an instructor that was so involved or who provided as much learning content as I experienced in this course. The videos helped provide a better understanding of class assignments.”

Other students echoed those comments adding that they didn’t expect to receive video content in an online course.

“I used to take online courses and didn’t like them at all,” added another student. “The material was very good and I was very surprised to see a professor upload videos to explain the material so clearly.”

In the end, Bradford says that using video in her online classes has helped rekindle the joy she gets from teaching.

“The connection we make with students is part of the joy we get from teaching,” says Bradford. “About half of the classes I teach each semester are solely online. Online learning shouldn’t be an inferior learning environment. We owe it to these students to give them the best education possible and Echo360 video has helped us to improve the student experience by making online courses feel closer to what students would experience in a face-to-face class.”

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