Online teaching presents a unique professional challenge.
You may interact with hundreds of students (and a handful of colleagues) every week.
You may send dozens of emails, and return piles of carefully graded student work.
But it’s very difficult to know whether your efforts are actually making a difference, isn’t it?
Taking your best guess is hardly good enough.
Scanning the skies for good omens doesn’t really cut it.
So we often look to student outcomes or student surveys as proof of our online teaching effectiveness.
And that’s a start.
Both methods are more reliable than reading runes, for sure.
But student results and surveys don’t tell the whole story.
There are many variables here, from fluctuating levels of commitment to the course, to legitimate Life Events that can affect a student’s learning experience and outcomes.
Many of these key influencing factors are outside your control.
WAY outside your control.
So are there other useful ways of measuring your online teaching effectiveness?
I say there are.
You just have to know where to look.
6 Ways to Tell if Your Online Teaching is Effective
Happily, your class doesn’t have to register an A+ average to prove you’re doing a great job.
There are other ways to confirm that you ARE making a positive difference in your online teaching role…
1. Students are comfortable approaching you
If you get regular emails from students asking for help or guidance, that probably doesn’t mean your course is confusing.
More likely, it means you’ve created a welcoming atmosphere.
You’re seen as an approachable guide who can be relied on to provide support when needed.
This ability doesn’t come naturally to every online teacher.
I’ve heard directly from plenty of students that if an online teacher is forbidding or intimidating, they simply won’t approach them.
Instead, these students just soldier on alone – often with disappointing outcomes.
We already know that only the most independent and skilled students never need help.
Everyone else in your course probably does!
So if you’re their go-to person, that’s a good sign.
2. Students offer positive feedback informally
You’ll already be familiar with the tools that gather formal student feedback – from end-of-semester surveys to focus groups and interviews.
But informal feedback can be more immediate, and more honest.
If you’re interacting regularly with your students as the course unfolds, you’re likely to receive regular comments about their learning experience.
Some of these comments will be useful for improving the course.
Others will relate directly to your own performance and impact.
So take note of these informal comments – they are significant.
Often, they offer further evidence that your guidance is helpful.
(And if you want to proactively gather informal student feedback, try using the same email that works for me – download it free here.)
3. You witness student a-ha! moments
Often, we just smile, and think nothing more of them.
But these moments matter.
Let’s say a student emails you because she’s confused about an aspect of an assignment.
You know a little about her background and learning style.
So you explain the assessment requirements in a different way – using an example that will resonate with her.
You’ve just gone out of your way to make sure a student can grasp a key concept, and keep making progress on the course.
You helped make that breakthrough moment happen.
4. Student work improves when they follow your advice
Of course, sometimes students don’t quite get around to saying thank you for your personalized advice.
They show their appreciation (and confirm your positive influence) in another way – by improving their grades after acting on your advice.
When you read a quality assignment from a student you know was struggling with the topic just a week ago, that’s more proof that you’re doing something right.
5. You hear positive comments on the grapevine
Your network is another source of anecdotal evidence that you’re doing a great job teaching online.
Your students talk to your colleagues and peers as well as you, and casual comments about your helpful approach will certainly get around. And some students are more comfortable praising your efforts to other people, rather than reaching out to you directly.
If a colleague or manager mentions that a student has made a positive comment about you, that’s more than a passing compliment.
It’s further proof that your efforts are being noticed and appreciated.
(Want more ideas for increasing your visibility and getting the rewards you deserve? Try this crash course).
6. Students ask what you’re teaching next semester
If students ask which other classes you teach, that means they enjoyed learning with you.
It also means you’re their preferred online teacher, and they trust you to help them with the next stage of their learning experience.
This is a subtle but powerful indication that you’re making positive waves as an online teacher.
In the business world, this equates to getting repeat business.
It represents satisfied customers who want more of what you’re offering.
The same principle applies in an educational setting.
You’re creating satisfied students who want to be taught by you again.
You should take this personally – it’s a strong affirmation of your online teaching ability.
When you teach online, it’s too easy to feel unappreciated.
But these 6 key indicators can help to prove that you’re doing a great job. If these factors describe your own practice, chances are that you’re making a real difference as an effective online teacher.
It’s good to know your efforts are not in vain, isn’t it?
If you’d like a little more support and validation, check out my Colleague Connect service – you get regular check-ins with someone who genuinely understands the challenges you face every day.
Image credits: grgroup @ Canstock; Kudryashka @ Canstock.