Personalizing Knowledge is the Key to Successful Students and Online Classes

Author Information
Joseph M. Furner
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Florida Atlantic University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

As a professor of mathematics and education courses for 26 years, and of online classes since 2002, I have found that the key to effectively teaching and reaching students online is by personalizing knowledge to the learner. The greatest connection a professor can make is by reaching his/her students. Encouraging them to send in their work each week via email or chat and then responding with their first name directly to them as individuals shows you care to them and this really impacts their success as well as your own as an online instructor better trying to teach and reach them and help them to reach their full potential in a learning environment/course. The personal touch is the key element to successfully reaching/teaching students while seeing them succeed in your online class.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

I require on a weekly basis that my students write to me and turn material in for grading, weekly readings and math problems they have to do, also they need to turn in most work via livetext or email. I always take the time to respond personally to each one of my students, writing back to them using their first name (some say, a person's first name is their favorite word in their world). I feel it is critical that as teachers, we need to build community and show students we care about them. In line with Marzano and others, a student must feel that the teacher cares, before "real" learning can occur. I also like the philosophy of the research by Purkey and Stanley, Invitational Teaching, Learning, and Living and that we as educators need to work toward having a philosophy to "teach to pass" and see that all of our students are successful. We can do this whether online or in a traditional class, providing a personal touch like responding to students individually and using their first names when you write back and address them shows them you care and sets up for student success in your online classroom.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

My evidence as an online teacher now for 12 years is that my course evaluations are the same whether I teach in person or online, most I feel is due to my personal touch and making the personal connection to students, showing them I care and setting them up for success with the course they are taking with me. It really makes a difference, students tell me this too, if I have had them in a class in person and online, or they just write and say thanks for caring and providing such a good course.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

This relates to the pillar, learning effectiveness in that by providing a personal touch, you reach students, you show them you care, you use their first name writing back to them, and you set the stage for their success in your course you are teaching.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

The only equipment is the computer and your time and energy to spend time writing back and personalizing each email a student writes when they send in work, that you respond, saying you received it, it was great work, it needs more, etc. but when you use their first name, when you respond in a timely manner, when you show them you care, this is what makes all the difference in teaching online, a real basic that many educators forget about. Bottom line, it is our jobs to see that our students succeed and it doesn't require much more than just a little bit more of our time.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

None, just take the time as educators to personalize your instruction, write students back individually weekly, use their first name in the email when you respond. Show them you care, take the time, it is beneficial for the student and their success but also us as professors.

References, supporting documents: 

A Different Kind of Classroom: Teaching With Dimensions of Learning [Paperback]
Robert J. Marzano (1992)

Purkey, W. W. & Stanley, P. H. (1991). Invitational teaching, learning, and living. Washington, D.C.: National Education Association.

Other Comments: 

Using first names and personalizing knowledge is a basic key idea for student success in online learning.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Joseph Furner
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