A lack of connection and attention. It’s a common complaint of online students and instructors. But it doesn’t need to be.

When instructors are aware of students who need attention, they can provide an effective response within an appropriate timeframe. And this improves feelings of connection between students and instructors.

In this 2-part blog post, we’ll share tips and a set of do’s and don’ts to help you provide this support within the online training platform. Here’s part 1:

Practice Makes Perfect

An online training platform should notify you when students are requesting your attention. Practice using the online training tools, so you can feel comfortable with the features and recognize when students are requesting help. Be sure to know where notifications appear in the tool and how to respond to each help request.

Try using two computers with one computer logged in as an instructor and the second computer logged in as a student. Have the student computer request help from the instructor. Switch back and forth between the instructor and student computers to practice requesting help, identifying where help notifications appear and responding to each help request. Repeat this process several times until you are comfortable responding to students’ help requests, while simultaneously delivering course topics.

There are several online training tools to help instructors stay connected to students. Use Private Chat during lectures to answer private questions, use Public Chat during lectures to answer questions that would be beneficial for the entire class to learn from, use the Help Queue within a virtual training lab to efficiently respond to lab-related questions, and encourage the use of Emoticons so students can provide their status.

Become Familiar with the Features

In ReadyTech, there are four features that notify instructors when a student needs help:

Private ChatPrivate Chat allows students to send instructors a one-on-one chat with questions. When you receive a chat from a student, a window will pop up on the screen with a student’s chat. Try to respond to private chats within 2 to 3 minutes, preferably by an assistant instructor.

Public ChatPublic Chat enables students to contact instructors publicly. Although this is not best practice, students will sometimes post their questions on the public chat room for the entire class to see. Try to respond to the student in a private chat, so the rest of the class is not distracted by a one-on-one conversation. The best practice for responding to public chats is within 2 to 3 minutes, preferably by an assistant instructor.

While some questions about specific problems within the virtual training lab are more appropriate for a one-on-one conversation, other questions are appropriate for the entire group and provide a learning moment for all.

Help QueueHelp Queue: when a student requests help, a timer pops up showing the number of seconds the student has been waiting for help. When you hover over the student, you can assign the help request to yourself—or to an assistant instructor—for processing. The best practice for responding to help requests involves a 2-step process:

  1. Immediately tell students which queue position they are in and when to expect help.
  2. Assist students within the given timeframe provided. On average, it takes instructors 3 to 7 minutes to help students with basic help requests.
EmoticonEmoticons help students catch an instructor’s attention. For example, students can “raise their hands” to ask verbal questions or can notify instructors that they are moving too fast or too slow within the course.

Using the Tools

Before class starts, provide ground rules for requesting help. Establish when it is appropriate to use Private Chat, Public Chat and Help Queue. Respond to all questions and help requests before moving to the next topic of the course.

Add an assistant instructor who can handle help requests, while the main instructor continues with the lecture. Try to resolve help requests within 5 minutes of the request.

Create a FAQs document and send this to students prior to class.