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#96: Student Retention Strategies in Online Education

#96: Student Retention Strategies in Online Education

This content originally appeared on APUEdge.Com.

Every year, a large number of students across the country leave college and fail to complete their degree. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about what educators can do to improve student retention numbers. Learn ways to help students address academic difficulties, resolve academic or occupational goals, and help them gain a sense of belonging and connection during their education.

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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m Bethanie Hansen, and I’m happy to be with you here today talking about student retention. Student retention is a phrase that you might hear a lot in online higher education. Every year a large number of students all across the country leave college and fail to complete their degree. So as professionals in online learning, we’re especially concerned about this number.

What are Student Retention Rates?

Now there’s a place called the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, and in 2019, they reported that nearly 29% of students who entered college in the fall of 2017 at four-year public institutions did not return to those institutions for a second year. That was well before the pandemic ever began. So we know it’s not specifically because of the pandemic. Retention of our online students is particularly low for those who are attending part-time. So nearly half of them are retained, and that means nearly half of them leave.

There’s a lot of data on this and when we think about why students enroll in college in the first place and why they may drop or choose not to return, there are many reasons. There are of course, personal issues, financial issues, family, work-related stress, interruptions, all kinds of things that come into the mix.

But there is a lot that we can do and these things we try to do to help students stay the course or persist and keep going to college, those are called retention strategies. When we do our retention strategies, then we start watching our students to see what they do. Are they staying? Are they enrolling in another class? Are they sticking around for the next semester or the next session? And when they do, we call that student persistence. So retention is what we do as the educators and higher education professionals to try to retain those students in class. And persistence? That’s what the students do.

Retention Strategies to Improve Student Persistence

Today, I’m going to speak with you about retention strategies. Things that we can try in working with our students to really encourage them to persist, to finish the class they enrolled in and continue on to the next one.

Most educators I know, and likely you might be the same way, we get into education because we really want to make a difference with our students. We want to help them reach their potential. We want to make a difference in this world by helping people better themselves through the transformative power of education.

That can’t happen if students are quitting their educations. When they don’t finish and they don’t keep going from class to class, they have a lot less opportunity available to them. Having that degree, whether it’s an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or even a doctoral degree, those things are so encouraging, but they also qualify our students for specific career fields and jobs.

So it’s very motivating for us as the teacher or a faculty member to encourage that student, to help them along. We’re going to talk about things we can do. We’re also going to talk about some things that inadvertently might affect our students’ desire to continue.

As a faculty director for seven years, I had a lot of experiences where I got occasional complaints about this or that faculty member. It did seem like there are certain behaviors that tend to push students away. And if we were together during a face-to-face class, and we did those very same things with a smile on our face, or with a bit of conversation around them, they would not have the same impact at all.

So, we’re going to talk a little bit about things that tend to push students away, as well as those strategies for helping them continue. I hope you’ll find some value in this podcast today, and at least one strategy you can try this coming week with your students. And hopefully continue so you can help them continue as well.

Model of Institutional Departure

There’s a well-known model created by Vincent Tinto. It was created in 1993 after his first published work in 1975. And it’s been used for a lot of years by many institutions. This model is called the Model of Institutional Departure. This model is all about three main areas that impact student persistence. These areas can easily be the reason why students leave the institution and don’t continue with their degree programs.

Academic Difficulties

The first one is academic difficulties. Think about what could enable the success of a student who is having academic difficulties. One thing I’ve seen in online education is a bit of flexibility when a student initially struggles academically. Some faculty will allow a redo. They’ll direct the student to a tutoring center, someone who can help them with their studies or their essay writing. And they’ll start to strengthen that student.

When we see that happen, sometimes the student will gain confidence, persevere through those academic difficulties, and start learning the hard stuff—they’ll really persist. Some will not. But academic difficulties are one of the major sources of student departure.

Challenges in Resolving Educational and Occupational Goals

A second area of students departing an institution is challenges in resolving educational and occupational goals. Now I experienced that myself at one time when I was completing a certificate at an institution. I was trying to change my major from this one area to this graduate certificate. And somehow just in the system itself, my records got stuck. My GPA went to 0 from all the credits that I did have, and I couldn’t figure out who to talk to or get help from. It was so discouraging, I didn’t feel like there was any way to resolve those goals that I had.

Challenges in resolving educational and occupational goals for our students can literally appear like a brick wall. So, the student does not feel like there’s any way forward to get where they really want to go. And, of course, that could be discouraging enough that they stop altogether.

Failure to Connect with the Institution

And third, failure to become academically and socially connected with the institution. When we think about this one, it’s really interesting because we have a variety of college age young people between the teen years and around 25 years old, which we would call traditional learners. And we also have adult learners who are over 25, all the way up to 80, 90 or so years old. We have a wide range of people going to college, especially online.

If you think about this wide range of age groups and demographics, failure to become academically and socially connected with the institution is an interesting obstacle to overcome. What does the student really want through academic connection? And what does the student want through social connection? Not every student is going to want the same thing. So, there are a variety of things that might attract the student to really get engaged and stay.

The bottom line in that academic and social connection is that the student feels a sense of belonging. They feel like they’re part of that college community and they want to be part of it. Some of us love it so much we become professional educators and we just want to stay forever because that sense of belonging was so rich and so inviting.

Think about your online class. If we just look from the lens of the single educator teaching one course with students in it, how can you help the student become connected to the academic life of that institution? What can you do to really build cognitive presence throughout the experience so the student feels richly involved? And what can you do to help them feel socially connected with the institution?

We had an example in the fall of 2021. We had an event that was about two hours long called World Philosophy Day. This event was recorded. So any student who could not attend could watch it after the fact. Simply knowing that it’s there, makes a lot of students feel socially connected and academically connected too. Attending the event really boosts that level. We had many students attend live and they stayed through the question and answers section at the end and asked a lot of questions. That did a lot for social connection in that group of students. Anything we do to help them feel like they’re part of a community is going to really go a long way.

Academic and Social Connection Support Students’ Goals

Now there are a lot of people who have done research on retention strategies. These three areas that I’ve mentioned from Tinto’s Model of Institutional Departure are really good, broad areas to be thinking about as faculty members, as teachers of our courses, and as members of this academic community. We can also think about how students need significant interactions with other members of the college.

That could be other departments. It could be faculty members. It could be the Dean, the President, the Provost. There are a lot of ways that students can have significant interactions, but they must be significant. Simply seeing someone’s name on a website is not going to check that box. So, as you’re thinking about different things you might do in your teaching throughout the session or term that you’re teaching your students, consider what might constitute a significant interaction with other members of the college.

What can you do to get students working with each other and connecting with different departments as they need to for your subject matter? How can you get your students to really get involved in the institutional library? Some online institutions have live librarians they can connect with and students can go there and talk to a real person. They can go to the advising department and connect with real people there.

We have student accommodations and a whole department associated with that. There are many different departments filled with live people that can speak with them and with whom they can really gain relationships. These are going to be significant interactions that help them feel part of the community and like they belong. Really integrating our students into this community is what’s going to help them want to stay.

The Role of Mentoring

Think about this point: Mentoring has been mentioned a lot in recent years in higher education, but particularly in online higher education. Mentoring has a lot of potential to help students feel like they’re connected to the institution and that they’re having significant interactions. Mentoring can go a lot of different ways. For example, mentoring might have to do with helping the student prepare for their career field. It might have to do with help guiding them in the subject matter, helping them to balance their life, get their study skills down.

There’s a wide range of areas that could fit into mentoring. But particularly for students who are isolated and don’t have a really clear way to connect to the institution, mentoring can go a long ways towards helping that student feel like they really do have a space there and a person that’s their go-to person.

Now, another variation of mentoring could be group work throughout a class. If you can get your students combined into groups of some kind and work together for projects and things, and yet grade them on their own contributions, not dependent on those other people. If they can work together, but still be individually accountable, that’s going to be a form of peer support that can be especially rich and supportive during a course.

Anything we can do to share what’s happening in the institution with our students, especially if there are events happening, webinars, if there’s a commencement ceremony, even if the student isn’t graduating that year, for them to know about it, to hear about it, to see it coming up, they’re going to be able to imagine themselves participating sometime in the future.

So there are those three big areas that tend to push students toward departure. And there are a lot of things we can do that helps students to really feel anchored and like they belong in the community to prevent those things from happening.

Now, on the flip side, I mentioned that I occasionally get student complaints and although I’m no longer a Faculty Director, I am a Department Chair, so I still have my finger on the pulse of what students are experiencing in my department. And when they have an experience with a faculty member that is not friendly, not inviting, not supportive, I hear about it.

A good example of this would be just a slow and abrupt response. If a student has a reason to ask for support with an assignment or clarity about a topic, and maybe the instructor is feeling like “this is a question I get all the time and I’m tired of this question,” the comment may come back slow and it might be a little terse or abrupt. And that can be incredibly rejecting to the student who’s asking for help.

Many students do not want to ask for help. And when they finally do, they’ve thought about it a really long time. So it could do us a lot of good to think about what that student is experiencing when they’re coming to us for help? What their experience with us in the class might be? What our impact is before we think about what their question is?

Educators Can Improve Engagement and Interactions

So, we can see things through the eyes of our students a lot better when we ask questions, when we pause and notice the tone, the question, the words that the student is using. And what we choose to focus on in our engagement with another, whether it’s virtual or a face-to-face engagement, that’s going to grow. So if we focus on the unkind part or the abrupt part of it, we’re going to continue to have that kind of an interchange with that person.

Likewise, if we focus on curiosity and patience and understanding, we’re going to grow that side of our teaching as well. Once we slow down and we pause and we notice where the student’s coming from, ask a lot of questions, and really try to understand, then we can be really present with what they need. And we can focus on that one thing and just give them that presence and that support that’s going to help them keep going in their studies and be really capable of exercising the grit that they need and the resilience that they need to continue.

Send a Welcome Note to Invite Students into the Class

Now you might be thinking that you’ve heard a lot about retention programs at your institution. Maybe there’s been an initiative rolled out that everyone needs to do a certain thing a certain way, and that’s going to help students persist in their classes. There are a lot of things that work incredibly well for retention purposes.

And if you’re doing them and you’re watching the results and you’re approaching them with a true desire to help your students keep going, they’re going to be more effective. One of those things is communicating to your students before the session begins. And that could be a few days before the class begins. It could be a week before the class begins.

When you do that primary outreach before the course has started, you introduce yourself, you start building a connection with your student and you build a bridge before the first day of class, your student is more invited and they’re feeling less nervous, less anxious about showing up in your classroom. They have a little bit of a sense of safety already before the first day of class.

Set Expectations Early to Help Students Plan Ahead

Another thing that we can do that helps students to persist is to share with them what our expectations are and what the assignments are early in the session. Maybe they even get a copy of the syllabus before the first day of class. Whatever it is, they need to know what they’re going to have to do that whole time so they can plan their time accordingly.

If students don’t know that they’re going to have a large number of pages to read every night and several essays, they will likely drop the class when they get too busy to do those things. But if they know it going into the class, they can plan ahead and set the time aside and manage it.

Some students even decide when to take certain courses, whether to take only one course at a time, or to take two or three courses at a time, based on the perceived workload they think that course will have. Mine’s a really common one that students like to pair with at least one other class, because they think it’s going to be super easy. It’s music appreciation and they think they’re going to just listen to music all day long.

They are very surprised when they learn they have to write an essay, they have to read a lot, listen to a lot, discuss a lot in the discussions. But it’s a lot more helpful when they know on the very first day of class or even a couple days early in that welcome message that I’m going to send out. That gives them the chance to decide, should I move my courses around? Am I going to be able to take two or three classes at a time? And they can judge for themselves.

Communicate with Kindness to Build Relationships

So, even if there’s no big strategy at your institution, you can do some of those things to give students advanced information. Be very patient and kind in your communications even if you have to say no to something. And, help students feel like they belong, that they have some connection in your course and connection to the bigger university setting.

So be thinking about academic difficulties your students could have in your subject area and in your particular class. Think about what could present a challenge to them in resolving their goals while they’re trying to get through your class. And think about how they can become academically and socially connected to the institution. With those three things in mind, you’re more likely to help your students finish the class and persist to enroll in the next one and eventually graduate with that degree.

I hope you’ll think more about that this week and try one of those strategies. Maybe you’ll come up with one that I haven’t mentioned here. If you’d like to share it back, please visit my site, bethaniehansen.com/request, even though that form is set up for you to request specific topics. I’ve also gotten communications of all kinds and even feedback about our podcast at that address. And I would love to hear from you.

So let us know what’s working for you in retention strategies that really helps your students to persist and what keeps it from happening. And, just so you know, we’re almost to episode number 100 in this podcast. We have some special guests coming up in just a few weeks and I hope you will enjoy all of the student affairs topics we’ll be talking about. We even have a special appearance from our university president at American Public University, Dr. Kate Zatz coming up. So definitely tune in each week. Don’t miss an episode and share it with a colleague or a friend. Here’s to you and wishing you all the best this coming week in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#53: Setting the Tone in the Online Classroom

#53: Setting the Tone in the Online Classroom

When teaching an online class, instructors must work hard to connect with students and set expectations for the course. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks to APU Faculty Director Dr. Craig Bogar about effectively communicating with students. Learn the benefits of publishing a welcome video so instructors can virtually introduce themselves to students in the beginning of the course. Also learn tips on conveying netiquette practices to students and why it’s so important for instructors to ask Socratic questions to enhance critical thinking and promote engagement of online students.

 

 

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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. This is the first episode of our second year of this podcast, and you’re in for a real treat today. We’re going to be interviewing Dr. Craig Bogar from American Public University, and I’m really excited to have Craig with us today. Craig, welcome to the podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, so listeners can get to know you and your connection to online education?

Dr. Craig Bogar: I sure can, Bethanie, and thanks for inviting me today. I’m super happy to be here. And I was a college athletic director at two universities some years ago, and I also coached swimming and track at those institutions, and I also worked as a college recreation and intramural director at one point. And after doing those things for a number of years, I decided to go back to school and get my doctorate, and at that time, I lived in Alabama, near the United States Sports Academy, and I was accepted into their hybrid program, which was on-ground and online.

Start a degree in Education at American Public University.

And once I completed my doctorate, opportunities started to arise and I began teaching online. And I also was serving as the Dean of Student Services at the Sports Academy for a few years, and had the opportunity to teach on-ground courses in both Thailand and the Kingdom of Bahrain while I was there.

I’ve been with American Public University , for the past nine years. I taught part-time online for three years, and then I got the position as Faculty Director for the School of Health Sciences, and that’s what I currently do for the institution. I still live in Alabama, but I live now on the Gulf Coast, right here in Gulf Shores. So it’s good to be with you.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: It’s wonderful to have you as well, Craig. Thank you for giving us a little bit of your background. Sounds like you’ve had some pretty well-rounded exciting experiences there. I’m curious, how would you have thought of being online long ago before this was really a mainstream thing to do, early in your career?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Wow. That is a great question, and the world as we know it, has changed exponentially in the past couple of decades, and it’s just so hard to conceive of the type of traditional education that we used to have and a number of us went through to get our bachelor’s degrees and onward.

But I think that the key for me, as I said, was being in a hybrid program for my doctoral program, where I got a taste of online instruction and online teaching, and just fell in love with it. And it offers so many different opportunities that one doesn’t necessarily get in the on-ground format, not the least of which is that it’s so much more convenient for students, especially the non-traditional student who may be in the workforce, and might have a family and children, and so forth.

Where years ago, as you recall, if people wanted to either finish a degree or maybe get an advanced degree, they were gone X number of nights a week after they left their job, and they rarely got to see their families, or have dinner with their families, and so forth.

Now with an asynchronous type of online program, as we know, people can do their coursework really anytime, any day. And with us having so many military students, especially in my program where close to 70% of them are with American Military University, they can be students overseas. So it’s really, as I said, it’s a new culture and a new world for many things, not the least of which is higher education.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Yeah. Fantastic. Thanks for that. A lot of our listeners have found themselves teaching online for the first time, and of course, we also have a lot of listeners who have taught online for quite a lengthy time, many in higher ed, and in also what you might consider public school ages, primary and secondary, so just to fill you in a little bit about our listeners.

And I know that you have a lot of best practices that you use in working online, but also in working with your faculty. So what is a best practice that you’d like to share with us today to help our listeners be even more effective in their online teaching?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Okay, well, I’ve got a few things in mind, but one thing I wanted to talk about was that we now require our instructors to post a welcome video that students see when they enter a given course. And one of the reasons we’re doing this, is because the welcome video is a great opportunity to provide a personal welcome to students, and of course, meet the university requirement now, but also to acquaint students with the essentials of a course.

And what I have found over the years that I try to communicate to my faculty, is that by the nature of online education, it is remote by nature, and we have to do our very best at what I call “touching” students in every possible way. It’s by greeting students by name when we see them in the course, when they respond in the course and such, and one of the ways, as I said, is this welcome video.

And in the welcome video, there are some things that I suggest, and I’ll just go through a few of them, is one is obviously to introduce yourself to your students and to welcome them, and if there’s a number of a course or description of the course name, to tell them that, and tell the students why the course is relevant to the program. What will this course do for you? I always refer my students to the syllabus, and to make sure they read that, because it includes course materials and learning objectives, and gives students a good blueprint for what they need to do each week in a given course.

I always explain my expectations for student participation. In other words, by what date do they have to make their initial post in the discussion forum each week? How many responses to their peers do I look for? I give them that information.

I tell the students what they can expect from me, and one of the key things in the online format is timely feedback from instructors. Here at APUS, we have a deadline for faculty grading, which is five days after a given week has ended, but I tell my students that, “Hey, this is the deadline, but I’m going to do better than that. You can get your feedback from me, you can get your grades from me before that deadline each week.” So I try to set the tone that I’m going to be doing my best to exceed expectations.

Also in this welcome video, I tell them what I expect as far as plagiarism, or not to commit plagiarism, and I expect them to follow the rules of netiquette. In other words, being courteous to their peers and also being courteous to me. Again, setting the tone, and I want a professional environment in the course, and I try to communicate that to students.

Also in the welcome video, I suggest that faculty mention the degrees they’ve earned, and give a concise description of their teaching experience or their relevant professional experience, because we want our students to know that, “Hey, we are qualified to teach these courses.” Students are very interested in knowing this, for obvious reasons. They want to make sure that the people who are teaching know their stuff. So in the welcome video, this is a great way in which we can give that information to students.

There’s some optional elements. You can tell the students in your welcome video where you’re from, where you live, the institutions that granted your degrees, maybe your hobbies, what do you like to do in your spare time, and any other personal information that you’d like to share.

But knowing that and hearing that, I also suggest that faculty stick to about three minutes for their welcome video. I know that for all those things that I mentioned, it may be a challenge, but after three minutes, I personally believe that we start to lose people’s focus and attention. So that’s just a ballpark estimate of how much time they should use.

I encourage faculty to write a script, and if you’re using a built-in camera, what I do is I position my script right at the top of that window or that monitor, so it doesn’t appear that I’m looking down and reading the whole time from a script.

It’s also good to be mindful of the setting and the background, and to look professional, and wear a solid color shirt or a blouse to make sure you contrast the background that students are seeing. You want to be about an arm’s length away from your camera. You want to not be overbearing in both your physical presence and your volume, so an arm’s length is good to know. And your lighting should be really in front of you, not behind you, so you don’t have shadowy recordings. Last of all, smile when you speak. That’s always something good to do.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wow, Craig, you have given us so much detail and so much great information about these instructor welcome videos, everything from your own practice, to what you’re sharing with your faculty. And I can imagine that not all online faculty are super excited about creating a video to share with their students. So I’m curious, what do you do to help your faculty get in there and actually do this welcome video creation? What works for you?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Well, actually, I really have not had any problems or any complaints from faculty. I think the people that get into the teaching profession are already pretty versed in speaking to groups. I always am available to help folks, but I try to give our faculty as many resources as possible in my weekly communications with faculty, to let them know I’m here to assist them if they need any assistance. But, fortunately, just in our new learning management system, it’s very easy to make a recording. So knock on wood, we really haven’t had that kind of problem, per se.

I did want to go back, Bethanie, and talk a little bit about netiquette as well, and just something that I have experienced or observed over the years. And I go back to my statement before about setting the tone in the course is so important, and for people to be professional, both the instructor and the students towards each other. And I have had some faculty who have had students who have used improper or foul language in a discussion forum, and they’ve come to me and said, “Hey, what do I do about this?”

And where I’ve had an occasional problem in the past, I’ve told students that when I’ve observed that, I say, “Hey, that kind of language, number one, we want to be professional in the classroom,” but that kind of language, especially if it’s a guy to guy thing, I say, “Hey, that’s more appropriate for the locker room, but this is a public forum.

This is a place where we need to be professional. And what I’m going to do,” fill in the blank, “John, is I’m going to give you another chance to repost, to delete your post, and to post again and see if you can do a little better job in meeting my expectations.” And that has worked 100% of the time for me, and that’s the advice that I’ve given to faculty that have come to me for assistance, saying that, “Hey, we can handle these kinds of situations,” and especially for first-time online students, they may not realize that what they say, and they should, but not everybody realizes that this is an academic setting, and we can’t have improper language.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: That’s fantastic help, Craig, and I appreciate you mentioning netiquette as part of this setting the tone that you also would be doing with your instructor videos. We’re going to take a quick break for a message from our sponsor. Craig, thank you for sharing all that you’ve given us so far, your best practice of the instructor welcome video, and also you mentioned a few things about netiquette. I’m wondering, what do you really want listeners to take away from those kinds of practices?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Well, I think that what I’d like them to take away is that it’s so important to set a tone in an online course as to what you expect from students, and what students can expect from you. And one of the ways to do that is through one’s welcome video that, as I said, we post in the very first week of an online course, it’s what we call the discussion module.

And I use the term “to touch” students in the online format is so important because of the nature of remote learning, that we need to use students’ names, and to be as personable as possible with students.

I think about Dale Carnegie, going back many, many years ago, who was one of the top speakers in the country, motivational speakers, and he used to say that, “The sweetest and most important sound in our language is to hear your own name,” and I think that is still true today. And by using students’ names whenever we communicate them or interact with them in the online classroom, is something that we need to do as online instructors.

One thing that I do is when I meet students, quote, unquote, in the “first week discussion/introduction forum,” if a student has a nickname, I write that down in my little log book, and I want to make sure that I refer to that student by his or her nickname throughout the course. And I’ve even had, on occasion, students in their end of course surveys that we do at our institution say that, “Dr. Bogar referred to, fill in the blank, Mary, by her nickname the whole course, and I thought that was so cool!”

And little things like that can help build relationships with the students that we have in our classrooms. There have been studies about brain activation and how when one hears their own name, how that really stimulates a person’s interest in what they’re doing, and I think the more, as I said, the more we can do that, the better in the online course to facilitate relationships and engagement with students in our courses.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wow, that’s really fantastic, Craig, and I couldn’t agree more. I always notice a person who calls me by my name, and I’m sure students really benefit from feeling connected, as if their instructor knows them personally, especially online. There’s such a divide there, such a disconnect when we don’t do those things. Thanks for all you shared with us so far.

I’m just wondering, are there any other tips or strategies you’d really like to share with listeners today that can help them be even more effective in their online teaching?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Sure. There’s one more area that I’d like to talk about briefly, and that is importance of asking Socratic questions of our students, which really promote engagement in a discussion, but maybe more importantly, Socratic questions enhance critical thinking, by asking these questions of students. As opposed to getting one word answers from students when we ask questions.

Socratic questions, of course, begin with words such as “why,” or “how,” or “what,” so the response tends to be more in-depth and critical. Socrates, I think it was about 2,000 or more years ago, thought that being a lecturer was not that effective, and came up with this method of questioning students. And it’s really, in my opinion, very effective in the online classroom, especially in the discussion formats that we have.

You may recall that years ago when Bethanie, you and I maybe were in on-ground classrooms, you always had students who were a little maybe intimidated by instructors asking questions, or for whatever reason, they were fairly shy in the classroom.

Well, in the online environment that is somewhat anonymous, those students who maybe were reticent about asking questions or responding to questions to instructors in an on-ground environment, they’re probably more likely to be more engaged in the online environment. And especially when instructors are asking these open-ended questions that really deserve students to think critically about a particular topic that may be discussed at one time.

Somebody came up with a quote one time, it wasn’t me, but “Our role as online instructors is really not to be the sage on the stage, but instead, the guide on the side.” And I think that when we are being guides and asking open-ended questions of our students, we’re sort of coaching them along, and we’re mentoring them to think differently about topics and think more critically about a topic at hand. So I just wanted to say that to those online instructors, consider asking these types of questions at every opportunity that presents itself.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Craig, thanks so much. That is fantastic advice, and what I really love about everything you’ve shared with our listeners today is that you’ve placed the instructor in a clear spot of forging relationships, building that academic environment, and really focusing there, instead of what we might call the checkbox behaviors of teaching online, when we’re just thinking about what must we do, what should we do? That’s really beautiful, and a place I think we want to encourage everybody to be.

Craig, thank you so much for being our speaker today, our special guest, as we kick off this second year of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. Any closing thoughts before we wrap things up today?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Well Bethanie, thank you for inviting me. I’ve really enjoyed being here and speaking with you, and I hope the things that I spoke about are going to be helpful to any of our folks online, and this type of podcast I think is extremely valuable for people who are teaching in the online environment. Thank you again, Bethanie, and best of luck with your podcast as you continue your role here.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Thank you again, Craig, and to all of you who are listening today, we wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week. This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.