This narrative blog entry was written by Willie Barbour, Professional Development Fellow and faculty in the English department.

I was looking forward to teaching this summer. This was going to be my first time teaching online. It would be a great learning opportunity for me, teaching my first 100% online course, well two courses. I say 100% because I have taught hybrid courses before and enjoyed them. But the summer wasn’t to be as pleasant as I had imagined back in late May. The problem that I couldn’t overcome was the lack of physical connection to the students. I couldn’t get over not seeing their faces, reading their body language as I gave out assignments or engaged them in discussions. I was in a vacuum and I didn’t, still don’t, know how to get over that.

This semester I am teaching face-to-face classes and enjoy the physical connections, it seems to me to be right, and I have no problems adjusting my lectures and/or discussions based how I am reading the class members. This brings me to why I am posting this. I want to know what others do to make that face-to-face connection in an online class. I can do video conferencing with students one on one but it still doesn’t give me the contact energy I need and that I gather from a full classroom. So what do you do? Or what have you experienced that might help overcome this?  I would love to start a conversation about this.  I look forward to your comments.

One thought on “Face-to-face vs. Online Student Interaction

  1. I don’t. I think it’s a losing proposition to expect juice from online teaching that’s akin to what you get from F2F. Even synchronous web conferencing with multiple participants isn’t the same. I get energy–different energy– from developing new learning materials and crafting new experiences. Then I use metrics and surveys to see if I can figure out how well things are working. It’s creative problem solving and inquiry.

    Plus, my students write a lot, so I learn a fair amount about them as individuals while I’m assessing their work. It doesn’t feel isolated to me at all. Our LMS facilitates a lot of direct communication, so that helps, too.

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