Professor Roboto

Mon, Jun 16, 2014

Distance Learning, Uncategorized

By Lisa Gerardy
Faculty Member, English at American Public University

Just in case you unfamiliar with the song, let me help you by giving you the link to the Mr. Roboto video. Anyone who works in online education can probably relate to this song and video. When you do most of your communication via a computer screen, it can be easy to feel like a robot.

I have been an online English professor for ten years. As you may have guessed, most of my communication with my students is in writing, either via email or the Forum threads. Students have come to expect quick responses from me because I am online a great deal. Over the years, I have learned that it is easy to become the robotic professor in an online environment; however there are a few ways to keep from becoming Professor Roboto.

1. Use any available technology to personalize your course. It may seem odd to mention technology when talking about making your course less robotic, but there are some great ways to use audio and video technology to make the online education experience more personal.

2. Set communication expectations at the beginning of the course. I’ve learned that if I reply to student email at night and on weekends, they will expect me to always do that. So, I make sure that most of my replies are during the work week, with replies to emergency emails only on the weekends.

3. Participate in the Forum more than you think you should. Most online universities have faculty participation expectations. My goal is always to reply to every student. There are some threads that are different, like a peer review thread, for example. For the most part thought, I’m usually very active in my courses.

4. Post a picture. It can also be great to have students post pictures, too, as long as guidelines are clear.

5. Use video chat for office hours. Instead of just instant messaging, or calling students, use a video chat program. Most instant message functions have this option.

As technology evolves, I’m sure there will be more ways to make online classrooms more personal. I would love to see a hologram lecture feature, though that would mean that my wardrobe would have to include more business clothes and fewer pairs of yoga pants.

About the Author

Lisa Gerardy is an English instructor at American Public University. Before joining the faculty at APUS, Lisa taught a variety of K-12 and college-level English, literature, and creative writing courses.  When she is not teaching, Lisa enjoys presenting at academic conferences, and she recently made two presentations at the East Central Writing Centers Conference in Ohio.

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