How to manage a long distance (learning) relationship

The word distance has a lot of negative connotations: remote, aloof, detached… not the kind of treatment you want when studying. It’s unsurprising that some people fear distance learning is going to leave them feeling isolated. But as a Learning Community Coordinator for our CIPD courses, I can tell you this just isn’t the case at AVADO. We know our students want to feel included and we want them to know we’re listening. So, here in the AVADO Community team, inclusion and engagement are our top priorities.

As our students enter the world of online learning, it’s often an exciting first step into a new type of learning different to what they may have experienced at school or university. But to avoid students being overwhelmed or feeling isolated, we ensure they are kept involved every step of the way.

So how do we do it? Well, online learning is a little bit like long-distance relationships –  both sides need to work at it to make it successful. From my experience, here are four factors which contribute to successful student engagement (and relationships!).

1) Commitment
The community team deal with a huge number of students every day. We reply to forum posts, queries, engagement exercises and are constantly on hand to help. In the courses I coordinate, I always have to be ready to get responses to students quickly so they don’t lose time, but still make sure to not take shortcuts and be as helpful as possible. It can be hard work, but I always remember how much work our students are putting in on their end. Studying for a qualification is difficult, especially if you’re juggling it with work and a family, so we make sure we’re committed to providing the best service possible to help them on their way. We put in the effort and our students do the same.

2) Sharing
I believe learning is all about collaboration, contribution, absorption and nurturing ideas. We want students to actively engage online, so we actively create opportunities to do so. We have live sessions, forums, threads and activities that we encourage our students to get involved with every day. Through sharing ideas and real-world experiences with each other, our students are developing greater understanding as well as keeping each other motivated.

3) Honesty
We care about what our students think of our courses, so we provide ample opportunities to provide feedback at regular stages throughout the course. Learning is about growth, so we’re always looking to improve our services to create the best student experience possible. We take on board the changes our students would like to see and pay attention to all the things they love about the course, whether that’s student interaction, our expert tutors or our engaging course material.

4) Communication
Clear communication is key. We don’t want our students to feel lost or uncertain at any point. So, I make sure my students know I’m listening and that I’m here to help at every stage. We carefully plan communications of key course activities in advance to help students plan ahead without confusion. Then we’ll directly ask students their thoughts on an activity or topic; it’s a great way to get their ideas buzzing and to establish a good system of two-way communication.

It may seem simple, but the human element of the community team is what gives our courses the personal touch. I’m really proud to be able to engage with my students, help resolve problems, and answer key questions. I’m not an automated robot; the students know my name (and even my face from my profile!) and I know theirs. I always strive to provide them with the information and service they deserve.

So, when you begin a course with AVADO, there’s no need to worry that you’re going to be on your own. Your community co-ordinator, tutor and fellow students are all part of the support structure meant to back you up. Just because it’s “distance” learning doesn’t mean you don’t have loads of people close at hand working their hardest to help you succeed!

Stephanie Khan

Posted April 7, 2017