Like a fine wine, online courses improve over time. With each new run of the course, an instructor is informed by what went well (and what maybe didn’t go so well) the term before. This creates efficiencies for the instructor (i.e. maybe adding in a frequently asked question into the syllabus or course start documentation to decrease the amount of emails about it) and also improves the experience for the students (i.e. maybe the instructor sees how assigning two essays back-to-back wasn’t the fairest thing to do).
The best online instructors are striving to continually improve their teaching style and their course structure, and one of the best ways to do this is to solicit continual feedback from students. This goes beyond the traditional end-of-term, university-administered course evaluation and aims to collect more detailed and practical information from students. Students themselves will also appreciate the personal (vs. standardized) approach here. But what to ask?
Terada (2020), in a web article titled 5 Research-Backed Tips to Improve Your Online Teaching Presence (para.19), listed six straight-forward, course-improving questions to ask your online students. I will share them below as suggestions you may want to consider as you endeavor to continually hone your own online teaching skills.
- On a scale from 1 to 5, how comfortable do you feel using technology in our virtual classroom?
- Have you encountered any technical issues, such as not being able to hear me, or not being able to connect to the internet?
- Are my lessons well-organized and my assignments clear?
- Can you easily find what you need?
- Do you feel like your voice is heard?
- What can I do to improve our online classroom?
For the job seeker:
Information like this is helpful for folks who are already teaching online. But how is knowing how to solicit feedback from online students helpful to the online teaching job seeker? That’s a very good question.
In OnRamp, our course that helps you improve your online teaching job application materials, we talk a lot about how developing your skills as an online instructor, understanding the unique needs of the adult online learner, and continually adding to/adjusting your teaching philosophy is a vital step to presenting yourself knowledgeably, confidently, and competently in a cover letter, objective statement, Teaching Philosophy, and during the interview process. My advice is to always collect tidbits like this – you might add something about the importance of soliciting student feedback in your Teaching Philosophy or you might discuss how you aim to be flexible and student-centered in this way during an interview. A school will appreciate how much you value student input in your work!