In the world of online learning, online language organizations have made education accessible and convenient for eager students all around the world. We have had to adapt nuances from standard in-person classroom experiences into virtual ones, ensuring our students still feel connected to their teachers.
And now, with artificial intelligence (AI) being integrated into education from a grassroots level, it’s even more important to maintain human connection in online language teaching so that learners feel a sense of belonging, that their education matters, and that they can trust that their learning experience will be effective.
Why Does Human Connection in Online Language Teaching Matter?
Simple: it leads to a higher quality learning experience for students.
"The job of an online teacher is the job of an offline teacher is the job of a teacher. Connect to people and help them to feel connected to you and to the dimension of the world you are leading them to experience. Connect your students to one another in a way that enables them not only to learn content from one another, but also to catch life experiences from one another—to shape one another in the way that only peers can. It’s that simple … and it’s that complex." Reshan Richards & Stephen J. Valentine for Edsurge
Human connection is fundamental to learning. Through social interaction, in both teacher to student and student to student, we consciously and unconsciously share a range of communication and language context with others in the learning environment that leads to a better understanding.
Underpinning this sense of connection is known as social synchrony – an innate capacity that allows us to connect with and understand others. Social interactions improve learning experiences by enhancing a student’s knowledge of literacy, their critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Strategies to Build and Maintain Human Connection in Online Language Teaching
The implementation of AI in education has been significant and is proven to be effective in powering online teaching platforms, as well as enhancing a learner’s experience. But educators must not lose sight of maintaining a human connection with their students and should prioritize interpersonal engagement. Here follows a couple strategies to achieve that.
1. Teaching Presence
When teaching presence is done correctly, it doesn’t matter if a student is learning online or in-person, they still benefit from the overall learning experience. Teaching presence is defined as “the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.”
When the design of course material and the guided class delivery thereof by a teacher that’s imparting intellectual knowledge, it ensures that online students have a positive learning experience through the support of learning processes through ongoing communication.In short, teacher presence humanises online interactions and is important because they:
- Motivate students
- Keep students connected and engaged
- Provide clear lines of communication so there’s no confusion
- Provide support and guidance
- Facilitate and model learning
2. Communicate with Respect, Empathy and Patience
For a non-native speaker to firstly learn a new language and then communicate in that language with a native speaker, it can be intimidating, especially among adult students. So, it’s important to make them feel comfortable and relaxed in doing tasks that can be overwhelming, in order to produce proper target language.
By engaging speak mode to seek a deeper understanding of your students’ perspectives and challenges, it makes the class more relatable and sets them at ease to better engage with the content and retain information.
3. Create a Supportive Online Community
By building and maintaining relationships with students through human connection in online language teaching, a space is created where they feel more comfortable to express their learnings during the lesson to be less afraid of making mistakes, which helps them to learn in a positive and supportive environment.
When students aren’t made fun of but are supported in their learning journey, it fosters a sense of connection and belonging.
Furthermore, work by psychologist Lev Vygotsky supports the theory that students won’t be able to reach the same level of learning by working alone and promotes problem-solving tasks with teachers or peers to reach their optimal learning goals.
“Social interaction is the origin and engine of learning.” Lev Vygotsky
4. Host Collaborative and Interactive Sessions
We want to foster student-centred interactive online classrooms that’s authentic and promotes active participation and critical thinking.
Active learning helps information go from short-term to long-term memory. Information doesn’t stick when it’s received passively and nothing further is done to recall it. For information to become knowledge, learners must engage in activities that help them make meaning of the content they’ve digested.
Collaboration makes a memorable impact on a student’s experience with your online educational programs. It facilitates a more effective and enjoyable learning experience by helping students apply what they’ve learned, retain knowledge, and develop relationships.
5. Check for Understanding
The aim of learning a new language is to be able to communicate conversationally, which goes beyond just memorizing letters and words and mimicking sounds without knowing what it means. To check for understanding means an educator frequently tests students on lessons to ensure they grasped the meaning behind what they learnt.
When teachers assess their students personally, they are able to provide personalized and meaningful feedback based on their individual progress. This makes students feel acknowledged and that their education matters.
Educators can also offer kind corrections along with guided feedback to ensure students understand their errors, so they won’t make the same mistakes again.
How Online Schools can Provide Human Connections to Students
While AI enhances various aspects of online learning, the human touch remains essential for fostering engagement, motivation, and a supportive learning environment. Here is what online schools can do to prioritise human connection in online language teaching in the AI era:
- Design courses with intent – Building in opportunities for feedback and collaboration is the primary priority when designing for human connection.
- Adapt and customize content – Prioritize differentiation and contextualizing. This means incorporating diverse readings, videos, quizzes, group discussions, and opportunities for independent reflection throughout your virtual program.
- Allow room for connection tactics – Give teachers the opportunity and time to build relationships and implement key strategies for connecting with their students.
- Hire great teachers! – Appointing teachers that are aligned with your teaching methodologies and learning goals for your students are key. This is where we come in.
At The Really Great Teacher Company we can assist in recruiting and equipping your educators to successfully connect with your students to provide them with the best learning experience in the AI era.
By adopting these strategies, online schools can create a more human-centered learning environment, leveraging technology while ensuring that students feel connected, supported, and engaged throughout their educational journey.
Balancing AI advancements with the human touch is key to providing a holistic and enriching online learning experience.