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Personalizing a fully online course

Hi Faculty Partners!  What are some of the ways you engage with students to make your fully online courses feel more personal and engaging?

Great Answers (1)

Great Answers (1)

Valued Contributor

Re: Personalizing a fully online course



To share with you and others, I have a few tips for personalizing an online class.


I keep my personality in the online environment through making my presence known by video, audio, and text. 

  1. I sign my name to messages and emails so students remember me as their instructor. 
  2. I upload my photo
  3. I share announcement videos where I use my webcam to record a quick message. 
  4. I let them see me in action with short content recordings (i.e. mini lectures).
  5. I send weekly "to do" email lists to keep my students on-track. 
  6. I address students by name in individualized, typed responses to them where I share feedback on their essays/projects. 
  7. I post with a little bit of quirk: a virtual "high five" to a student for a job well done or a virtual "snack" to help them through a tough week.

When our personalities shine through an online class, students can feel connected to us as instructors. 


--Audrey Wick


Answers (5)

Answers (5)


Re: Personalizing a fully online course


These are great suggestions that I have incorporated into my online course at Houston Community College.  Being an online tutor has taught me about students hearing not only what they have done wrong but what they are doing right so I will be adding these "HIGH FIVES" to the list.  Sharing with students fives items they have improved upon on did successfully to support their learning.


My past experiences with using the course orientation has proven to develop a community of learnes from the start. This module MUST be completed prior to accessing any work in the course. Students want to know who I am so I introduce myself with a brief biography. They want to know how I can be reached (of course only in case of an emergency) so I share tools in the LMS such as messaging, announcements and campus email/phone.  In addition,  I explain that there will be announcement each week. Students can either like the announcement to confirm receipt or respond with any questions, concerns or items of clarity.


In addition to these key pieces of communication students also want to know how and when they will receive feedback on their completed work. To reduce the "are you done yet(s)" I give them a heads up that a week post each assignment deadlines they can review this information with a video on how to read my comments too!  We have a feature to provide audio feedback also.  


Re: Personalizing a fully online course

I LOVE Audrey's response to this and plan on using her suggestions in my class!


Re: Personalizing a fully online course

One of the best ways I've found to personalize my fully online course is to schedule two touch-base meetings (one within the first 7 weeks of the course and the other within the last 7 weeks) with each of my students using Skype for Business.   I use these T-B meetings to review the students' work-to-date and upcoming assignments, and to answer the students' questions.  SfB allows me to replicate a face-to-face meeting and to share documents and the course LMS. 


Here're  a few quotes I received from my online students:

  • One of the most difficult issues with online classes is communicating with teachers or understanding expectations, but using Skype for Business really streamlined the process.

  • Using Skype for Business for meetings allowed the teacher to go over our paperwork or coursework.

  • I enjoyed the two Skype meetings. The meetings gave me one-on-one attention and helped further my

    understanding of the assignments and any feedback I received from previous assignments.

Here is a SfB overview for those unfamiliar with the product:


Frequent Commenter

Re: Personalizing a fully online course

I also do some of the same things that Audrey listed, other than the virtual snacks and high fives. However, I think that's a great way to engage with students to show them that you care. I tend to respond quickly to a student's email. When they send a message with a questions or concern, they typically want to you to answer that question or respond to that concern immediately. Therefore, I use my iPhone quite a bit to carry on conversations with students.


I often provide direct email messages to help students keep on track with their assignments. I call these "mini progress reports". It not only helps the students stay on track, it helps me keep up with where students are within a class. I can easily search my saved email messages to review specific conversations with a particular student as we progress through the semester.


Re: Personalizing a fully online course

Great suggestions Audrey. I do some of the things that you mentioned like weekly email messages of tasks and activities, followed up by reminders towards the end of the course. One thing that really has worked for me is to create a sense of community for the online students - for example, I have every one of them introduce themselves (include a photo of him or her or something else - I have seen photos of pets, kids, travel, etc.). This makes it easier and more comfortable for students to communicate with each other even though the class in online and they don't meet in person. I also sometimes assign group projects on a case study (I teach Business Statistics), which initially I wasn't sure would work for an online class, but I was pleasantly surprised. Students have really liked this activity, the opportunity to work collaboratively and learn from each other, and mentioned that it improved their overall learning experience in the course.