eMailing It In

As many of us focus on providing courses to students at a distance there is a good deal of advice and assistance on offer. In most cases, the assumption is that faculty will need more than a little help. Those working at institutions where such help is plentiful and high quality are indeed fortunate. But for those forced or who choose to be a bit more independent, it is useful to remembers a few basics of what makes teaching and learning successful under any circumstances.

Let’s begin with Willard Waller’s much cited assertion that education is very largely the result of a close, warm relation between teacher and student. Many of those who have avoided teaching students at a distance have done so because they have found the tools and technologies available, particularly those adopted by educational institutions, to be inimical to building solid and supportive relationships with their students. This is much as Waller would have predicted since most institutional tools for distance leaning support bureaucratic institutional goals, and they are, in fact, designed to address the needs of the institutions that subscribe to them.

But there are some options readily available to most instructors and students that have the advantages both of requiring little or no additional training and being more oriented to developing the relationship between a teacher and student. The one I want to highlight here is something we also use on a regular basis – email. With all the focus on using specialized tools, don’t forget that email is the most popular, indeed the “killer app” of the internet for a good reason. It just works. It works to maintain communication. It works to convey information. It works to build both one-to-one and group relationships. So, why we are waiting for the online session with the DL team, let’s shoot a supportive email to our students.

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