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How to show your students you care during distance learning

How to show your students you care during distance learning

Over here in the UK, we’re a week into our third national lockdown, and students are expected to learn from home again. Many people across the county will be feeling a little weary at this point, and students are no exception.

For them, it’s an uncertain and stressful time, and students in some year groups have just had their exams cancelled. Many of them will be feeling at a loose end.

Without the usual social aspects of school, teachers now have the responsibility to make a special effort to show students they care, continuing to support them through the challenges of online learning, and maintaining their motivation in the absence of exams.

Fortunately, after the first lockdown, researchers from the University of Connecticut did some research, asking students what their professors did to show they cared during online learning. This might help schools and teachers to know what they can do even better this time round…



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How can teachers show they care?

The researchers asked 60 students what their professors did when learning went online in Spring that showed they cared about them. We’ve had a look at the most popular responses, to give some tips for how teachers can show students they care…

Be available

The research suggested that what many students appreciated was the possibility to access and connect with their teachers regularly. The best way teachers can provide this is through having frequent and regular hours when students can contact them, and by responding to queries as soon as they can. In these unprecedented times, students are bound to have plenty of questions, and a key part of support is receiving an answer and being reassured as soon as possible.

Be flexible

Many students felt that learning from home was more chaotic and presented new challenges. Even just the physical distance from school, teachers and peers can be a barrier to learning. Because of this, they were grateful for teachers being flexible, for example by relaxing homework deadlines. This helped them to manage their work better and reduced their stress levels.

It’s important that teachers are able to recognise when students are struggling and are ready to adapt their strategy to make life a little bit easier for them when needed.

Take a break

When learning goes online, the whole process can easily become very formal, and classes can end up lacking the social contact that everyone needs in these periods of isolation. Students in this study loved having the opportunity to take a break from learning and just chat with classmates and teachers. Teachers can easily build in these kinds of informal breaks and meet-ups to online learning. This will also help to maintain teacher-student relationships, which can have a positive impact on student learning and well-being.

Reach out

As well as breaks and chats with the whole class, try to check in with individual students to see how they’re doing, and offer one-to-one talks. This shows students that they have someone to talk to, and teachers can use this time to apply their knowledge of individual students to engage and support them. A personalised approach will go a long way to show students you care. Checking in with parents or guardians can be helpful too, to reassure families should they have any concerns.

Ask for feedback

Switching to and from online learning and dealing with the constant changes in education is a confusing time not only for students, but for teachers too. Teachers can’t be expected to manage it all perfectly straight away. That’s why it’s a great idea for teachers to ask students for feedback about their online learning.

As well as helping you find out what’s going well and what you could do differently, students will feel listened to and valued. Being able to have a say in how things are done will hopefully take away some of the frustrations they might feel with all the changes that are happening.

Try with technology

Love it or hate it, anyone working or learning at home is having to use technology a lot more.

In the study, when teachers used technology in effective and creative ways, students perceived this as teachers really caring and making an effort. So, try to be positive towards technology, master the tools and platforms you’re going to be using, and find innovative ways to use technology in online lessons. This may improve students’ ability to learn online, and allow them to enjoy it more too.

This may sound like a big task, but plenty of educators all over the world have had to face it too and have had great ideas. Look for a teacher community online - they might have tips and resources you can use.

Have a timeline

Finally, students appreciated having lessons, homework assignments, and all other activities being posted on a timeline or timetable. This helps both students and teachers to organise themselves well, allowing students to plan, and helping to reduce some of the uncertainties surrounding home learning.

Try to make and stick to a timeline, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. You could even create a shared, online classroom calendar to help with this.

Look after yourself too

Maintaining online relationships and caring for many students can be emotionally laborious, alongside all the other trials and tribulations going on right now. So, teachers, please make sure to look after yourselves too, allowing yourself some downtime and self-care to nurture your well-being too.


Final thought

These tips can be very straightforward to adopt in your remote teaching and will go a long way to support students through a confusing time. The challenge facing everyone in education at the moment is a monumental one. Hopefully these tips can help you and your students navigate these choppy waters together successfully.

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