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November 14, 2022

Adjusting the Support We Offer Our Students

This article si a translation of a text published in Eductive’s French edition.

What strategies do you use to support your students? Are you looking for new perspectives? Here are some tips on how to effectively support your students.

One of the keys to effectively supporting students is to be proactive. The idea is to anticipate students’ needs by putting strategies in place to prevent an unwanted reaction on their part: a misunderstanding or mishandling, for example.

Nevertheless, if a situation ever escapes us, it is possible to be reactive by following up with the students through:

  • an email
  • a synchronous communication tool
  • a discussion forum
  • an individual face-to-face meeting

Pedagogical support

Pedagogical support includes all the support strategies that relate to the course content and resources used. Here are some proactive pedagogical support strategies to implement:

  • Explain the purpose of the resources you are posting on the course site. You can do this verbally or by writing a short descriptive sentence to accompany the resource.
  • Provide clarification of the process, assignment deadlines, activities, and objectives of the course. Refocus students as needed (e.g., by reminding them of the purpose of the assignment).
  • Vary the types of resources, activities, and media by incorporating:
    • narrated tutorials
    • readings
    • audio content
    • videos
    • Etc.
  • Variety promotes academic success. It allows us to reach different types of learners. It also accommodates students who have less access to certain types of resources. Students will be more motivated and therefore more involved in their learning.
  • Anticipate potential student questions. For example:
    • As assignment due dates approach, you can ask students in the class forum if they have any questions.
    • To encourage more participation, you can:
      • take a moment at the end of each class for students to ask questions about the day’s material before wrapping up. For example, instead of asking “Do you have any questions?”, opt for the wording “Ask me a couple of questions about the material.” or “What do you need to know to get ready for next class?”
      • use a platform to collect students’ questions, anonymously or not (Slido or Wooclap, for example).

This allows you to see the difficulties experienced by the learners.

Slido is an online tool that brings together several ways to add interactivity to your lessons:

  • question and answer session (Q&A)
  • survey
  • word cloud
  • quiz (competition between students)
  • questions (multiple choice, short answer, ranking)
  • etc.

You can integrate this tool into your PowerPoint slideshows and Teams class sessions. The interest of this tool lies in the fact that you can group all your interaction in one place. The full app is paid, but the free version offers a lot of possibilities that will satisfy you.

Technological support

Technological support includes all support strategies that relate to the use of digital tools. Even though students are becoming more and more accustomed to technology, we don’t want it to get in the way of learning.

Here are some proactive technology support strategies to implement:

  • When you place links on your site, make sure they are not broken.
  • From the very 1st class, help students as they explore their digital learning environment. For example, take time to introduce the different sections you have integrated into your Moodle site.
  • When selecting a tool, make sure students have the knowledge and skills to use them. If they don’t, consider offering a tutorial if it is appropriate and doesn’t overburden the student.
  • Select a variety of digital tools to reach the greatest number of learners. For example, if you want your students to create a concept map, offer them 2 or 3 choices of platforms and let them choose the one they feel most comfortable with.

Management support

Management support includes all support strategies that relate to relational management of students, for example with an intentional cognitive empathy approach (Parr, M. 2019, p. 85) [PDF, in French]. Its aim is for students to be satisfied with the course, feel confident, and not to feel isolated.

Here are some proactive management support strategies to continue to implement:

  • Communicate regularly with your students via email or a class forum, for example.
    • Write individual messages to students to have personalized connections. For example, write an email to students who are not very active or at risk of failing.
    • Provide quick and clear feedback.
  • Guide students with regard the rules of etiquette in the course. For example, tell them that discussions should be respectful and focused on the topic.
  • Participate in the discussions to show your involvement and to make the discussions more dynamic when necessary.
  • Use neutral vocabulary in the instructions you issue. For example:
    • say “The work is due on…” rather than “You have to hand in the work on…”
    • say “You can use this tool…” rather than “You must use this tool…”
    • say “I’m counting on you to add…” rather than “It’s your responsibility to…”

What are your thoughts on these strategies? What other strategies do you use to support your students?

Resources

 

If you want to learn more, here are some resources that deal with support in distance education courses but present useful strategies in all teaching contexts.

Vanier College. Resources for Online Teaching

Université Laval teaching support service. Assurer l’encadrement des étudiantes et des étudiants à distance [in French]

Université Laval teaching support service. Guide des bonnes pratiques de l’enseignement en ligne. Partage d’idées, conseils et suggestions [in French]

Parr, M. for the Réseau d’enseignement francophone à distance du Canada (REFAD) (2019). Pour apprivoiser la distance. Guide de formation et de soutien aux acteurs de la formation à distance [PDF, in French]

About the author

Lisa-Marie Gauthier

Lisa-Marie is a technopedagogical advisor and holds a master’s degree in Educational Technology from Université Laval. Her fields of interest include educational design and the discovery of new technological tools. She also worked for 5 years in the field of elementary and preschool education.

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