How To Engage Online Students Using Positive Language

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Maintaining online student engagement is an ongoing challenge.

Much has been written on the topic, with a range of innovative suggestions offered, such as gamification, real-time interactive activities, or flipped learning, for example.

But there’s also a simpler, more “organic” approach you can use to increase student engagement.

And you can weave it through every aspect of your online courses.

You simply use positive language—strategically and consistently.Here are 5 ways to do it.

1. Give authentic feedback on assignments

We all know about the feedback sandwich: start with a positive statement, identify some issues in assignments that need to be addressed, and then end on another positive note.

This is a great place to start.give authentic student feedback

But the positive aspects of the feedback have to be sincere.

And you demonstrate sincerity with the careful use of language.

Your comments need to be relevant to the work and demonstrate that you have read the assignments carefully.

Some examples of positive student feedback that is meaningful include:

  • If the student’s work has improved since their last assignment, tell them that.
  • If the writing style is clear and focused, highlight how well that’s working.
  • If a sound research methodology has been used, explain how much this enhances their argument.

Make your positive comments genuine and they will be credible and truly encouraging.

2. Use positive language in emails

In online learning, much of your communication with students will be through emails. But too often, your emails can be ignored or go unanswered.

One way around that is to establish a pattern of positive communication.
If students are used to your emails having a positive impact on their studies, they’ll be more likely to open them.

So make sure your messages are consistently helpful and worth opening.
And make it very clear that your emails will be helpful by making sure subject lines are appropriately positive.

Some examples of positive subject lines your students will want to click on:

  • Heads up!
  • Need some help with your assignment?
  • You need to know this…
  • Don’t forget to…

Make it clear your emails will actually help your online students, and they’ll be more likely to open the messages and read them.

3. Incorporate some humanity

When communicating with a student you know has been struggling with personal, health, or other issues, take a second to say you hope they’re feeling better.

You don’t have to re-hash any stressful details or get overly personal.
But a little human warmth can do wonders to connect with your students and show them that they matter to you.

4. Your teacher bio is another way to communicate positively

Your teacher bio is an often overlooked way to communicate with your students.positive language in student feedback

You may have forgotten it’s even out there, but it is somewhere on your organizational website.
It represents your profile and your personal brand.

But does it present you as an approachable, warm human being?

It might be time to update the profile with some more positive language.
Include something about yourself that shows you’re a real person.

And a line or two about how you help students and why this makes their learning journey easier won’t take long to write.

It’s another way to use positive language to connect with your students who want to know more about you.

(And yes, they have probably searched for your bio. So, make sure it’s another tool of connection and engagement.)

5. Use emojis (carefully)

For a long time, I resisted the urge to use emojis in emails to online students.

After all, these are not weekend text messages to a friend.
You’re working in a professional learning environment, and you are running the course.

But over time, I realized that communication in online learning is dominated by two factors:

a) Lack of visual cues

It’s harder for students to “read” your tone online, especially if they are used to face-to-face learning.

And that means they can potentially see an email reply as being abrupt or impatient, even if you didn’t intend it that way.

Even with crystal clear written communication, students are more easily discouraged in the online medium.

b) Student isolation

Online students are often rushed, trying to fit study around work or family commitments.

They’re tired, over-stretched, and often feeling isolated.
The conditions are already set for online students to disconnect and disengage. An email from you they misinterpret as critical could be the final straw.

The strategic use of emojis can help address both these problems.
It’s the visual version of using positive language.

But I’m not talking about using a scattergun spray of silly and irrelevant images that damages your credibility.

I’m suggesting using a smiling face when appropriate.
It conveys friendliness, warmth, connection, and says that there’s a human being and a positive intention to genuinely help them succeed behind your emails.

Online student engagement will continue to be a challenge, without a doubt. But using positive language is a simple and powerful way to address this challenge.

These small but significant changes will help your students engage more, starting now.

This article first appeared on eLearning Industry.
Graphics are used under license from Deposit Photos.