While most have embraced the importance of online education because of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Rebecca Glazier has been researching its importance for the past decade and has plenty of advice to share.
Glazier, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has signed a contract with John Hopkins University Press to publish her new book on connecting with students in an online environment.
The new book is titled, “Connecting in the Online Classroom: Teachers, Students, and Building Rapport in Online Learning.” The experimental and survey research in the book demonstrate how teachers and students can make human connections in online classes as well as how those connections lead to significant improvements in student success.
“Even before COVID-19, more students than ever were taking online classes,” Glazier said. “Online higher education can increase access for students who have previously been unable to attend college, including rural students, students of color, low-income students, non-traditional students, and working students.”
Higher education is also facing an online retention crisis, Glazier said. Online students are at risk of failing classes, dropping out of college, and ending up with student loan debt and no degree.
“Students in online classes fail and drop out at significantly higher rates than students in face-to-face classes,” Glazier said. “This book is about how faculty can make real human connections with the students in their online classes by building rapport with them to reverse this crisis and help their students succeed.”
The personal touch brought by faculty members is even more critical to student success during a pandemic, when students might be struggling with financial or emotional issues.
“When students connect with faculty, they learn more, earn higher grades, stay enrolled, and are more likely to graduate,” Glazier said. “When they take sterile online classes without a human faculty presence, online retention rates plummet, and students are much less likely to succeed. Making real human connections is really critical for learning online.”
While this is Glazier’s first academic book, she’s published 34 articles and book chapters, including five articles on online teaching with two under review.
With so many students taking online classes during the pandemic, Glazier is worried that educators may be more focused on technology. A multi-year teaching experiment conducted in her own political science classes shows that making online classes a welcoming place for community and connection resulted in increased students grades and a 13 percent increase in retention.
Glazier partnered with Dr. Heidi Skurat, a professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, to conduct an experiment to see if they could improve student retention with only a small amount of rapport-building. In results discussed in depth in the book, Glazier and Skurat found that students who spent as little as 10 minutes in online classes designed with rapport in mind – elements as simple as having a picture of the professor, a welcome message, a flexible late-work policy, and automatic feedback on quizzes – were significantly more likely to say they intended to stay enrolled in the course.
“The book is filled with evidence-based strategies that faculty can implement in their online classrooms right away to build rapport with their students and help them succeed,” Glazier says.
The book will be available in summer 2021. In the meantime, Glazier is sharing her message of the importance of human connection in online education through workshops, blog posts, and podcasts on her website and has recently been featured in an animated podcast with Helix Education.