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Using Student Communication to Adapt Online Instruction

Instructor: Jenifer Clay
Did you know that monitoring the types of questions submitted by your students can help you as an online instructor improve course instruction and course communication? This lesson explains how to use student inquiries to improve overall communication in your virtual classroom.

Questions, Questions! What Type of Questions?

Instructors, are you aware of the type of questions you are getting from your students? Are the questions the same for many of your students, for only some of your students, or, are all your students asking different questions? If you are not aware, then you should pay attention. It is important to understand the types of questions your students' are asking, because student inquiries can play a vital role in assisting you as an instructor to improve the flow and understanding of your course content and to improve the overall communication processes in your classes.

The following tips will help you strategically monitor the types of questions you are getting to improve overall course communication.

Two Types of Questions

Before we can discuss how to monitor questions, we need to first understand why our students ask questions. Students typically ask questions for two reasons. One is to seek clarification on course assignments and expectations. The other type of question is to confirm that what they are doing is correct.

As you keep in mind why students typically ask questions you can then begin to monitor the types of questions you receive from your students.

Monitoring Questions

You can do this by first sorting the questions into one of the two question types: the student is either seeking clarification or the student is confirming what they are doing is correct. Once you have the questions sorted, you can then begin to monitor the questions your students are asking. If your students are asking lots of questions to seek clarification on assignments or course expectations, then this would be a good time for you, the instructor, to review the course assignments and expectations. You may need to clarify or add more details about an assignment or the course expectations to clear up any potential misunderstanding or challenges for your students.

If your students are asking questions to confirm what they are doing is correct then this would be a good time to reiterate the expectations for an individual assignment or the course expectations. You can also place course benchmarks throughout the course that would assist as confirmation that students are in fact completing assignments or tasks as expected for the course. A benchmark serves as a standard by which instructors can monitor student achievement or completion in a course.

Monitoring student questions is a good tool to assist in not only better understanding your students' needs, but also presents an opportunity for the instructor to refine course communication between student and instructor. The next section will discuss how monitoring student questions can help refine course communication.

Refining Course Communication

How exactly does monitoring student questions help refine communication between you and your students? Let's recap quickly. As an online instructor, you have been sorting and monitoring student questions, and using that information to incorporate updates, revisions, or additional guidance to assist your students and help them better understand assignments, expectations, and overall course flow. You are doing great!

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