Establishing Successful Online Learning

“Establishing successful online learning environments starts with empathy”

“Online learning environments require steps to be taken before students arrive”

This article offers helpful considerations and small (but significant) steps you can take to create productive and successful online learning environments. It is primarily concerned with the online environment itself, not pedagogies for online instruction.

Now that Covid-19 has moved us all online, many educators are wondering how to create online learning environments that are conducive for effective learning and engagement.

While online instruction and learning is new for some of us, colleagues across the nation have been teaching in online environments for years. Learning and instruction will be different than in person instruction but not to the degree that prevents success. There are still learning outcomes and course objectives, and most of all, you are still the instructor. What has changed is the vehicle and method by which instruction is delivered. Rely on the strengths that already exist, and remember you are not beginning from scratch.

A final consideration before we get into specifics in establishing successful online learning environmentsstarts with empathy. Although we are not able to teach and learn in person right nowwe are still connected by our shared humanity. Students are experiencing circumstances that are changing daily. This is exacerbated by the fact that home life looks different for every studentand, all students do not have homes. The first step in establishing successful online learning environments is to remember that students need real human connection from their professors. They want and need to know that you understand their life is very difficult to navigate, for you and for them. They need to know their lives matter beyond any assessment or assignment.

Just like traditional physical learning environments require steps to be taken before students arrive (proper electrical wiring for the use of lights and other technology, a clean and tidy classroom, etc.), online learning environments require the same. As the meeting host, you can shape the environment using the settings and features at your disposal. Consider the list below:  

  1. Ensure your online meeting space is secure. If you are using Zoom, read this article to secure your room. Safety is key. 

  1. Consider whether you want to allow students to access the room if you or another instructor/facilitator is not present. This could be the difference between a prompt start time, in case you are running behind, and a late start time. 

  1. Utilize the features that are at your disposal. If you are an instructor that prefers to not be disrupted by a question, instruct students to use the “raise hand” feature to get your attention. Set your account to mute participants as soon as they enter the virtual room. These and other features allow you to maintain management of the room before any student arrives.  

The focus does not change once students arrive. Consider the following:  

  1. Introduce the parameters upfront. Instruct students to keep their devices muted to avoid disruptions. 

  1. If you are recording the session (which you should, given that students will miss some class sessions), allow students who are not comfortable being recorded the option to turn their video off or only use the chat to communicate. This empowers students to create the environment that is most beneficial to their success.  

  1. Speaking of student empowerment, creating successful online learning environments means allowing everyone involved to share responsibility for the creating and maintaining a space that allows for effective learning and engagement. Create “community norms” that guide and shape behavior in the environment. Some people use the language “community covenants” or “agreements” to capture the fact that each participant is entering into relationship with the others, and that this “covenant” is the contract to which everyone agrees. Once these are created, send a copy to every student and refer to it at the beginning of each session.  

  1. Fully utilize any feature that allows you to create small groups for further and deeper engagement. This feature gives you the option to set a time when all participants should be back to the main room without requiring participants to do anything at all.

Let’s end at the beginning. Establishing successful online learning environments requires us to connect differently. It does not prevent effective engagement and learning. Acknowledge the severity of the situation at hand in a way that is not discouraging or demoralizing for students. Utilize the resources at your disposal, including your students. Many of them are experts at the internet and technology. Do not be afraid to ask questions and seek their feedback.

Remember: the problem to be solved is not greater than the solutions that exist.  

 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

North Carolina is not alone in regard to macro-level efforts by state governments to increase access to vaccines, subverted by micro-level actions by individuals.
A través de mi experiencia, sé que las familias hispanas han sido gravemente, y desproporcionadamente, afectadas por la pandemia, y los datos de la Encuesta sobre Diversidad Religiosa y Vacunas de 2021 de PRRI-IFYC lo corroboran.
"It is permissible within our religion to defer, or to make up your fast later if you're feeling sick."
From experience, I know that Hispanic families had been greatly, and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and survey data from the 2021 PRRI-IFYC Religious Diversity and Vaccine Survey corroborates this.
As the last few days of Ramadan are upon us – take our interactive quiz to find out how much you really know about this holy month.
We weren’t sure what to expect or how to navigate the complexities of getting to know colleagues from a distance, but IFYC team members Silma and Nadia welcomed us into their homes, their traditions, and their faith.
As the final project for the class, we wanted to do something that would make our campus a more inclusive, interreligious place.
IFYC is collecting prayers and meditations from diverse faiths to show our solidarity with the people of India, as well as links to charitable organizations that people can support.
Generally, tradition holds that the body is to be cremated or buried as quickly as possible – within 24 hours for Hindus, Jains and Muslims, and within three days for Sikhs. This need for rapid disposal has also contributed to the current crisis.
“Humanitarian Day embodies why Islam is relevant in America today. It’s why many Black Muslims embraced Islam, to be part of the solution, not only in their personal lives, but in their communities." - Margari Aziza Hill, MuslimARC
Recently, I asked a group of IFYC Alumni to share what they do in one sentence. I love their responses because they capture who they are so well.
As a nurse and a physician occupying different spheres in relation to the patient, Anastasia and I held comparable but also differing views about the role of religion and interfaith in the realm of patient care.
El movimiento necesita artistas, educadores, trabajadores de la salud, padres, funcionarios electos, científicos, clérigos, directores generales, y cuantas personas sea posible para hablar en contra de la injusticia donde sea que la veamos.
The scholarship covers the students’ tuition, as well as housing and living assistance while they pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees across all 18 of Columbia’s schools and affiliates.
En esta foto del sábado 9 de mayo de 2020, el Rev. Fabián Arias lleva a cabo un servicio en casa, al lado de los restos de Raúl Luis López quien murió de COVID-19 el mes previo, en el barrio Corona del distrito de Queens en Nueva York.
It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.