The Principles of Good Practice highlight the importance of faculty-student interaction
in promoting learning. The online environment is not necessarily conducive to this goal,
because neither the instructor nor the student can rely on regular face-to-face
interactions to reinforce one’s willingness to be helpful and approachable. Experienced
online instructors, however, have identified the following ways to help enhance faculty-
• In your written communication, present yourself as accessible to students
Students in an online course must feel that you are approachable. Often the
demands on teachers are greater in online courses, so it is important to explore
the variety of ways you can send a message of availability. One way to bridge the
distance between faculty and student is to address students by name. Praise
� Tip: To make yourself seem approachable to students, try using a more
informal tone. For example, “Today, as you all are well aware, our class
officially begins. Please begin working on the assignments for July 15-21.
You have a couple of assignments due tonight (and kudos to those of you
who have already posted!)”
• Schedule an in-person meeting of the entire class
If possible, meet with students in person for one session at the beginning of the
semester. Meeting in person helps students associate names with faces and can
be an effective, timely way to accomplish many of the administrative tasks central
to your course.
• Generate frequent communication
Students need to have a sense the instructor is really “there,” not “missing in
action.” This means responding in a timely manner to individual questions or
issues that are raised in discussion groups. It also means making your presence
known by participating in online discussions, giving students regular feedback on
their work and their comments, and being flexible enough to make changes to the
course mid-stream based on student feedback.
• Assign discussion group leaders or project team leaders to facilitate group
Assigning team leaders is one way to ensure that students receive ample
feedback. Make sure that the team leader disseminates information to every
member of the team. Part of the responsibility of the team leader should be to
report to you frequently on the progress of the team.
Teaching and Learning Online • University of Massachusetts 31