Building rapport – when online can help face-to-face.

pile of stones This week I’ve been thinking about building rapport in the context of blended learning where the learning technology (a VLE) plays a supporting role to a predominantly classroom based course.

In hybrid learning the role of the VLE is often seen as being that of a repository for resources. When faculty start using a VLE they often begin by uploading course handbooks, lecture slides or recordings and reading lists. I can understand that – the physical space of face-to-face classes it’s supposed to provide human interaction, discussion and activity, which leaves the online space to act as an archive and source for further study.

But face-to-face classes are changing. Student numbers are growing and lecturers don’t necessarily have the opportunity to interact with all the students on their module. A convenor may be delivering the weekly lecture while associate tutors are teaching numerous seminar groups. The VLE provides a platform for the lecturer to develop a relationship and rapport with her students between and beyond the lectures.

With the weekly face-to-face contact in the lecture theatre as a basis for the relationship, a module convenor can use various features of a VLE (such as Moodle which we use at my institution) to develop rapport with individuals and the group as a whole. Here are a few examples:

Forum: where the lecturer can introduce herself and students can ask questions related to the lecture or the module as a whole to be answered by the lecturer in an informal, friendly tone. All the students will be able to see the answers and contribute to the discussion with follow-on questions of their own. This online learning space can also be used for questions that arise in the lecture or in seminars. The lecturer can also use this forum to suggest additional useful resources.

RSS Twitter feed: the lecturer could embed their Twitter feed in the VLE and share interesting tweets with students (this might necessitate a separate professional Twitter account).

Online quiz with lecturer feedback: A quick quiz either after each lecture or after a block of lectures letting students check their learning and get automated feedback from the lecturer. This also provides the lecturer/convenor with feedback to inform lecture planning (which topics are students comfortable with, which need revisiting).

Can you think of any other examples of a VLE or other online learning platform being used to build rapport in a classroom based course?

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2 Responses to Building rapport – when online can help face-to-face.

  1. Greg Walker says:

    Hi anne,
    I like to use about.me to present a bit about myself to the world (or your learner). Also I like to use Diiog to collect resources and screenshot. You can also set up Diigo for groups or courses.
    Thanks,
    Greg

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  2. Rachael says:

    You can use a synchronous tool like chat (Skype) or Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing. In Blackboard Collaborate you can do ice breakers, use the web cam to “see” each other and talk. You can have virtual office hours to meet with students. Or even just using Forums, you can ask students to post a picture of themselves or something that represents who they are to get to know everyone. Setting up a “cyber cafe” or similar in Forums will create a casual space for students to chat.

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