Several times over the past few semesters, I have had students turn in papers that had absolutely nothing to do with the given assignment. It was quite obvious that they had not read the assignment AT ALL. Of course, if they hadn’t taken time to read the assignment, they also clearly hadn’t taken time to read the example papers or the other instructions for the assignment.
Of course, this might be because these students simply don’t care. Or they see the title of an assignment and assume they know what it is. Or they just didn’t have time and turned in something they hoped might work.
But, it could also be that students just have a hard time processing written information online. This could be a learning style issue OR it could be simply a product of the times. After all, many of our younger students are accustomed to communicating through text messages and getting their information from memes and youtube videos!
When I teach in the classroom, I natural use several different learning styles to share information. Students hear my voice (auditory), they see the writing on the board (visual), and they practice in class (tactical). It’s much more difficult, though, to cover all the learning styles in an online classroom. And, of course, trying to sum up college level information in text message style is ridiculous and impossible!
When I started teaching online, I took my classroom lectures, typed them up, and made them reading assignments. This way, I knew that my students were getting all the information from me that they needed. As the years passed, I realized that my students were not getting all the information.
I started making a concerted effort to duplicate the information in audio/visual form–usually with a video. If I can find or make a video that encapsulates the same information in an interesting way, students are more likely to watch the video than they are to read the lecture.
I try to vary the types of videos I use in my online classes. Some are videos of me talking–usually I use those to teach a concept. Others are videos that I create showing how to do something–like how to set up a website or how to navigate Canvas. And, for variety, I try to find youtube videos that are engaging and interesting to help reinforce concepts taught.
I’ve found that students really like the videos–especially the ones with me in them. (Surprise!) Because they don’t see me in class, seeing my face and hearing my voice makes them feel like they are getting to know me, which has the added benefit of helping online students feel less distanced from the community of the classroom.
In short, if you’re not using videos in your classes, try it! It will help your students learn the material better, and, if you’re not too shy, sharing videos of yourself speaking will help them feel more connected to you and your class. 🙂