5 Ways to Tie Culture Into Your Online Courseroom

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Culture often plays a very strong role in people’s lives. Culture has the ability to sway perceptions, influence goals and hopes and even steer fears and anxieties. In business, leaders are often encouraged to create core values that set the foundation for the culture that will soon evolve. Once the core values are set, it is up to all those in an organization (both management and non-management) to continue the growth and development of this culture based on those created values. A culture is always created in an environment, sometimes no culture is the culture. As a professor, your classroom is your business and you are the leader. It is up to you to create the foundation and continuously guide, the culture.

Here are 5 Ways to Add Culture Into Your Courseroom

1. Create Core Values.

It is up to a professor to create core values. Core values are the very foundation of your culture. Adding culture into your courseroom may produce benefits for your students and could impact levels of fear in asking for help, increase course retention and peer interactions, and enhance understanding of content.

The How To:

Think of 3-5 traits that you really value in yourself, students, and class and begin to shape your classroom based on these traits. Do you value punctuality? Do you value willpower? Do you value working collaboratively? These are examples of traits that you can adapt and begin turning into core values. Be sure to shape your classroom content, attitude, and interactions according to these values. You are a model for your students and they will follow your lead. Share your values as expectations early on so that students take part right from the start in maintaining and developing this culture.

2. Make Culture an Action.

Culture is a continuous activity and it involves both the professor and student. The more you can get students involved and engaged in growing the culture, the more fun and better rapport everyone has in the courseroom.

The How To:

Take time to think about how you can get your students to do more, while still making it fun so they want to do more. By getting students to go above and beyond you foster critical thinking and encourage them to open their mind.

Here are a few actionable ideas that can add more fun to the culture of your classroom now:

· Create an in-class library where you and students list off “must-read” books.

· Create a “Pinterest” type board where you and students can add pictures during the term that represent fun and the classroom core values.

· If your school allows and the student approves, highlight a student of the week that met a core value and explain why.

· Have students upload pictures of their families and themselves. Discuss the purpose behind why they are on this educational journey.

What three actionable ideas can you add to this list?

3. Reward Students.

John E. Jones says, “what gets measured get done; what gets measured and fed back gets done well; what gets rewarded gets repeated.” By rewarding students, you reinforce their behaviors, build up their confidence, build a rapport and push them to the next level. You may not be able to send students a $100 gift card every time they get and A on an assignment, but that is not necessarily how you build the courseroom culture when it comes to rewarding students, anyway.

The How To:

Take time to think about ways that you can increase a student’s opportunity to grow in the classroom, this is a reward. They are attending school to learn, they are paying to learn. The more you can enhance learning, the more it is a “bonus” or “reward” to/for them.

Here are a few rewards that you can add to your courseroom now:

· Provide students with inspirational readings or media, such as TedTalks or YouTube videos.

· Create your own media to make content more understandable.

· Provide thorough in text comments and feedback when grading assignments and discussions.

· Give real-world examples of situations and outcomes.

· Provide resources that the school or communities offer.

· Educate students on the various social media platforms.

· Find ways to connect students’ comments, thoughts, ideas.

· Highlight students that are using certain core values.

· Stay on top of trends, hot topics and technology in order to enhance discussions on current events and how to tie them into the now.

What is one reward that you can you add to this list?

4. Let the student put in less effort.

Of course a student needs to put in maximum effort to get this degree. But the journey in getting that degree can be easier if professor does two things: One, provides a culture that allows students to receive communication in a timely manner and two, he or she knows what a student needs before they know.

First, it is hard enough to ask a question for some students, but to not get a response or miss a deadline while waiting for a response, that can create some serious anxiety in a student. This can create a culture of fear, nervousness and lack of respect. Two, a seasoned professor often knows a student’s question before they ask it. This is because most questions tend to be common or related to a certain topic and this pattern has been noted over the years of teaching.

The How To:

First, be sure to respond to student in a timely manner. Check your email from students at least one time per day and do your best to set a personal goal and beat the response time mandated by the university. If you have an ask your instructor forum in your classroom, be sure to check that area of your classroom a couple times a day and remember that other students in this type of forum setting see the student’s question and your response. Never be harsh, condescending or critical in your response. This can really hurt the student’s confidence who asked the question and increase anxiety in those reading this section of the courseroom.

Second, take a moment to reflect on all the courses you have taught. In each course, did a recurring question or theme come up? Was there a worksheet several students could never locate? Was there a certain section of an assignment that was always misunderstood? Create an announcement before that week and let the students know what to expect or how to hurdle the issue they are about to face. This simple change in your culture and practice allows for more of a focus on learning and less of a focus on smaller mundane tasks.

5. Connect students to a higher purpose.

When we are connected to a higher purpose in life, we are more committed, happier and more motivated. This higher purpose doesn’t only have to be faith driven. It is about connecting people to people and people to resources. A professor can create a culture of connectedness.

The How To:

Create a culture of connectedness in your courseroom by connecting students to one another and to resources both inside of the institution and outside.

Here are a few ways to connect students in your courseroom now:

· Get them involved in the school’s social media.

· Educate students on the power LinkedIn can have on networking, credibility and job searching.

· Tie students’ comments together and note commonalties.

· Encourage students to share about how they overcame certain issues that others in the course may be facing.

· Share websites, blogs and content that might support a certain issue a student has (this can be over email and not always in the public forum).

· Write letters of recommendation if your institution allows.

· Provide students with a list and consistently comment on the various resources the university offers.

· Encourage students to share their dreams and goals for themselves and family.

What is one way that you currently connect your students to a higher purpose?

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