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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"Listening" to Students in an Online Course

"Listening" is vital in an online environment because it establishes "real" responsiveness - not the coerciveness or ego-crush of an automated response generated through artificial intelligence.

Play the Podcast.

Now, granted, if you're listening to me speak in an audio file, you're truly "listening." But the listening I'm talking about is something else. It is, in a nutshell, the moment in which real communication is reached - when the circuit boards light up because the electricity is flowing.

You can show that you're listening by

a) making substantive comments to the student's paper or discussion board comments. Don't just say"very good" - explain what it was that made you think a particular passage was effective;

b) respond to questions by answering them in a timely fashion and provide the information needed;

c) keeping your comments brief, but meaningful. If you write a page-long comment, the student will stop "listening' and start trying to defend herself.

How do you make sure that the learner is "listening?"

a) Set a good tone - start each communication with an affirmation;

b) Avoid "humor" - (it can come across as sarcasm);

c) Ask questions and connect issues to something in your own life and be willing to reveal something about yourself;

d) Avoid inflammatory or judgmental words. Imagine how you would react if you received an e-mail, or saw something posted in the discussion board;

e) Keep as neutral as possible in the discussion boards - encourage and react to students, but be careful not to exclude some, or target others.

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