Alone Together: Creating Human Contact in the Online Classroom

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At 10:15am On 3/7/17 I attended the Being Alone Together presented by Matthew Henry, professor at Wake Tech Community College at the 2017 NCCIA Conference located at Craven Community College in New Bern, NC.


Alone Together: Creating Human Contact in the Online Classroom


  • There are accessibilty concerns. Struggle entails failure, but then you’ll have amazing successes
  • no judgement is meant
  • please… try this at home

Who are you

fatpandasensei twitter handle website to come

2003 started teaching with WebCT. NCSU M Ed has been full online delivery. Knows what bad online teaching experience(s)

“0000001” is the loneliest number

When you see online learning marketed, you never see other people.

  • students are geographically remote
  • students have nontraditional hours
  • the class is always “open” even when the instructor isn’t around
  • student may never have contact with one anothervstudents may rarely hear from their instructor

But learning does not have to be solitary by design

Several great examples of students who had benefitted by timely video content

Ok, Prove It

  • Students in online classrooms using asynchronus video reported a “we’re in this toehter feeling”
  • instructor in video made students made them more real

Welcome and Weekly Video

  • Generic or specialized?
  • abuse youtube
  • yes, there are captioning options
  • use a “secret word” to ensure viewing
  • borrup, west, Graham (2012): video made the instructor more real, present and famililar–SImilar to face-to-face instruction

Covers everything in the video for the first week- covers allinformation about the classroom policies and must-dos. Students are worse than Perry Mason if they feel as though the policies were not clear.

Videos with secret words are great. Disable comments and embed the secret word. Even if they scrub through, they have still taken responsibility. You can use a quiz to assure that they’ve seen the content, and use it for attendance.

Other videos can still be sued with other instructors. Legacy materials must be captioned, but timely materials can be re-worked every semester.

Captioning and Transcripts

Transcirpts are not reliable, they are quirky, inaccurate and bordering on drunk. Yes, you can edit the auto-captions!

Beyond the “Welcome Video”

  • videos for micro-instruction: one topic, 3-5min max
  • The “Flipped” model
  • Students give
    • greater personal connection to instructor
    • positive evaluation of the instructor
    • increased overall satisfaction with the class
    • 91.5% of participatnts agreed or strongly agreed they wanted more content and developed a stronger relationship with that person

So, What’s Important?

Lighiting and audio are nice, but it is equally imperative that you come across as warm, approachable and genuine.

IN the absolute worst case scenario, just upload what you filmed. Its not that bad. Most often, the viewer doesn’t care about that, they just want to see the instructor.

Pro and Con of the Welcome Video


  • They humanize you to your students.
  • students put a name with a face
  • personal attention for your students and classes
  • if you make generic content, its reusable
  • you have fun with your classes


  • You must make this accessible. Its time consuming but worth it
  • edit your own subtitles
  • distill your videos in Camtasia


  • Video Capture Software
  • Capture screencasting
  • audio-video editing
  • “callouts” are your best friends!- Use them to highlight a presentation, make them stackable


  • Go beyond basic video editing there are multiple enhancements available
  • make demos that students can review &emdash; from a powerpoint lecture to live desktop recordings
  • callouts- no, serious, your new best friend
  • Embed captions (remember keep it accessible!)


  • Slight learning curve&emdash; don’t be intimidated
  • licensed software, although “Screencast-o-matic” is a possible alternative

Adobe Connect

  • virtual classroom environment
  • share your desktop with students
  • share your webcam with students
  • install poll options
  • student discussion area interaction options
  • add-on functionality


  • size is limited by license
  • online classroom environment
  • sessions can be recorded for future playback
  • mobile friendly, but flash dependent features, some students may not share files, etc.


  • license are expensive
  • size is limited

Google Hangouts

Limited to 10 students, and maybe expanded to 15. Everyone has to get a google address invitation, has to have a plug-in enabled


  • think twitter for video
  • fixed time limit to respond
  • students can post responses to flipgrid
  • great for
    • short response assignments
    • introductions at the beginning of class
    • THe oft-feared presentation assignments


  • desktop/mobile friendly
  • Free option


  • subscription requires $65 fee
  • flash-dependent (safari/ie/edge)


  • sms/mms chat client
  • Desktop and mobile releases
  • multidirectional communication
  • groups and supergroups allowed


  • free
  • always on
  • multidirectional
  • voice and text capabilities
  • video messaging
  • encrypted messaging allowedvimnvite links for groups


  • id locked to phone number
  • one device must approved another using the same login
  • users may see your cell number
  • bandwidth hungry
  • google voice tricks won’t here

Mobile app integration

  • voxer
  • coco
  • slack
  • telegram
  • wechat

This was a great discussion. It was standing room only, and I chose to enter, and I’m really happy to have done so. Students who feel like a community, who feel a connection to one another and sense of interpersonal connection and interdependence are likely to sustain them.