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This Week in the LEC...

Be Vocal in Your Online Course

Issue Date: 06-14-2019


Let’s be honest, starting a new semester can be an anxious time for all course participants- including instructors. So, it is necessary to create a trusting, warm, and welcoming environment online to make students feel comfortable and willing to communicate with you and their peers. Student engagement is critical in online courses. It is highly important that instructors be visible and communicate regularly with their students. Savery (2005) mentioned that instructors need to be VOCAL that is: visible, organized, compassionate, analytical and a leader by example. 

Storytelling- Creating an initial icebreaker discussion board activity is sometimes overlooked, but it really is a great way to “break the ice.” Introduce yourself and ask students to do likewise. This may enable students to feel more comfortable communicating with you and their peers. Tell your story but maintain boundaries that are comfortable for you. Let the students know that you are human and that you were once a student. Apart from your accomplishments, let students know that you are a real person. Record a video of yourself sharing your story of some challenges or struggles that you have experienced. Describe what projects you are working on, books you are currently reading or have read, your research interest and what you intend to do in the future. Allow students to tell their story in a few short paragraphs or in a short video recording and let them conclude with what they expect to learn from your course.

Personalize the Discussion Forum

Create meaningful and interesting discussion topics and ask students to share their reaction to the content. It helps to think of questions that you would ask in a face-to-face environment and then consider how to present that topic online. Try recording yourself introducing the background on the topic either through a quick video or an audio recording.

Provide ways for students to make the course their own

Motivate students by offering them a choice of discussion topics, so they can feel that they have some control over their learning. Also, try to encourage students to create their discussion response as a visual presentation such as a video, an infographic, or a PowerPoint presentation.

Provide feedback

Provide timely and meaningful feedback to learners. It helps them to feel connected to the course. When students must wait for a long period of time for feedback, they tend to feel “lost in cyber-space” and the feedback may not help them in time for a critical assignment. Peer feedback is also valuable. Students can demonstrate mastery of the content by reteaching it to their peers.

Savery, J. R. (2005). Be vocal: Characteristics of successful online instructors. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 4(2), 141-142.


For information on using peer review in Canvas click on the link below:


For more information on being vocal in an online course:

Tags: Canvas, Course Tools: Discussion Board

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