5 Keys to Communicating with Students & Parents Online
The biggest key to success when teaching in an online environment (or basically in any other situation in the world) is creating strong relationships. Connecting with students and families is easier and more fun when a good relationship is established early on.
The following communication tips for online teachers share a goal of creating strong relationships. This goes beyond sending and requesting information to engaging with students and families.
You may even find that you are able to create stronger relationships than you did in a traditional school!
1. Communicate in the way that’s best for students and families.
The best way to connect is to reach out in a way that is most comfortable for students and families. Email doesn’t count as communication when it comes to creating relationships. We use it online for a variety of purposes, but when it comes to real connections, email isn’t a choice.
Most students and parents enjoy texting, and relationships can easily grow through text. There are times to pick up the phone though, too. Google Voice is a great free tool and practically imperative for online teachers when it comes to making calls.
There are also a number of communication tools to help teachers connect with families, ranging from educational applications to video calling.
Be open to whatever works, and most importantly, think about the person on the other end and what they need in that moment – it may be different than your first choice or where you are comfortable. It’s about the relationship, not just about you.
2. Reach out early, often, and for positive reasons
As soon as students are placed in your online course or start working online, you should reach out right away and welcome / reassure them and their parents. The quicker you create a friendly environment, the easier everything else from here on out will be. A quick text that says:
“Hi Kurtis and Kurtis’ mom, this is Mrs. Reynolds, your FLVS online creative photography teacher. I am so happy you are here. Can you talk on Tuesday after 2 p.m. so we can get you started? Let me know!”
After you’ve made initial contact – don’t stop! Reach out again! Text is great if they text as well. A quick phone call or voicemail works if you have discovered they don’t text. Say something encouraging. The key here is that you want the student and parent to LIKE to get messages and information from you. You want them to WANT to pick up the phone when you call. So make it easy; be nice. In the first week, a sample text may be:
“Hi Serena, thank you for turning in your first assignment. I’ll grade it later today and can’t wait to see your photos! Let me know if you need anything. 🙂 Mrs. R.”
3. Make it personal
A teen, and probably most parents, can smell a copied text a mile away and the only thing worse than no communication is meaningless spam. And the worst of all is a text or voicemail with the wrong information. Sure, we can all copy and paste a text and change a name, but one misstep of the wrong name and there is a feeling of betrayal by the recipient. That said, instructors can have an organized process of the types of messages or calls they make, and still can be personal. A few example of personal texts:
“Hi Angel, I like the photos you took of your brother’s basketball. Who knew a basketball could be so interesting? I like how hard you are working in this photo course.”
“Hi Malachi, thank you for turning in work this week!”
“Hey Sophie, I hope the practice in module two was helpful. You can keep moving and take the module quiz by Sunday.”
Most students enjoy attention – most humans do! Asking students questions is an easy way to strengthen relationships, keep students motivated and working, and a great way to get feedback. Some examples:
When you call them (at a time of a day you know is good for them) and they answer (because they like to talk to you), be friendly and ask them how they are. Simple!
“Justine! It’s Mrs Reynolds. How are you?”
“Hi Will, how are you enjoying this course so far? Do you like it, love it, hate it, putting up with it?”
They will give you an honest answer and the conversation goes from there. If they hate it or are putting up with it, that is an opening to obviously find out what the trouble is. Where a student could be keeping his/her lips zipped, the student is now giving you a map to help him/her be successful.
5. Silence is not golden in an online environment
If you don’t hear back from a student or parent, don’t take it personally and don’t use typical social norms where you may wait to hear back before you write or call again.
If you don’t get a reply or call back, reach out again in a few days (something friendly obviously).
“Hey Jess, I didn’t hear back from you last week. I hope you are great. Let me know how you are doing? Here to help! Mrs R.”
“Hi Ms McKenna, this is Mrs Reynolds, Jess’s online photo teacher. Jess has an 84% in photo class. I didn’t hear back from you last week, but I’m here if you all need anything. 🙂 Mrs R.”
We hope these tips help you create strong relationships with your students when working online!
Join our LinkedIn group which provides a forum for educators to exchange useful information and share best practices in online education.
Post by Carrie Alexander, FLVS Global Sales & eSolutions Manager