Set 6- How will you connect and be present online?

The purpose of this practiceis to decide how you will connect and be present online


Planning how to be present online improves teaching online.

Guiding Principle

If you are clear about being present online you will improve teaching online


 Plan how you will be present online.

Teaching online is not about your course content Teaching online is about moving from pouring facts and figures into learners heads to pouring energy into what is right with each student with intention.

It’s about the interactions you have with your learners and the way you facilitate learning related to the course content. Intentionally change your thinking from content delivery to connecting to the essence of who you are with the essence of who your learners are by; fostering student engagement, stimulating intellectual development, and building rapport.

Learning online can be extremely isolating without human interaction. Online learners need opportunities to share, reflect and help each other improve. How will you be present online?

How will you connect and be present online?

The meaning of sadhana.

Sadhana does not mean any specific kind of activity. Sadhana means you are using everything as a tool to open to the flow of natural experience.

Natural experience opens your connection to understanding and wisdom as it naturally comes and goes in the give and take of the river of life.

Sadhguru & T.Y. Pang

The meaning of true education.

True education should wake up the Innate Humanity inside of you. When you reach a higher level of practice and understanding, you learn to harmonize yourself inside, then you become able to harmonize with other people, and with outside situations.

T.Y. Pang

The Promise

It is up to you to make the time for practice; the more you practice the more you will learn.

Time is a created thing. To say I don’t have time,’ is like saying, I don’t want to.

― Lao Tzu

Practice In Order
I. Absorb

Let’s Begin

First, please complete the sadhana practice. Second, click on each question and review each answer. Third, take a break!

1. Complete the Elements of Thought sadhana practice.

Sadhana does not mean any specific kind of activity, sadhana means you are using everything as a tool to open to the flow of natural learning.

Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. If we want to think well, we must understand at least the rudiments of thought, the most basic structures out of which all thinking is made. We must learn how to take thinking apart.

Foundation for Critical Thinking

The purpose of this sadhana is to help you open to the flow of natural experience and reasonable thinking.

1. Relax for 5 minutes.

Quietly sit straight and upright for 5 minutes, head and spine straight, concentrating only on your breath. Sit in an erect position, shoulders relaxed, palms flat on thighs. Center your focus on your midsection. Breath in and out deeply through your nose.

Pay attention to your spine. Your spine is where you will feel the flow of energy. Notice which parts of the spine feel warm and where there are no feelings or numbness. This information will indicate where your energy is flowing and where it is not. Your energy originates in the spine and flows out through the body.

straight and upright

When thoughts come up, let them go gently. Don’t beat yourself up. That just brings more thought. Gently let them go. Remember to keep your head and spine straight.

2. Watch the video below.
  • Recognize your thoughts.
  • Allow your thoughts to be just as they are.
  • Investigate your thoughts with kindness.
  • Natural awareness will come from not identifying with your thoughts.
Why Students & Teachers Don’t Reason Well

Now tap into your awareness. All reasoning leads somewhere or has Implications and consequences.

Implications are claims or truths that logically follow from other claims or truths. Implications follow from thoughts. Consequences follow from actions.

Implications are inherent in your thoughts, whether you see them or not. The best thinkers think through the logical implications in a situation before acting.

  • Trace the implications and consequences that follow from your reasoning.
  • Search for negative as well as positive implications.
  • Consider all possible consequences.

Complete the following understanding of implication:

  • I understand “implication” to mean…
  • In other words, [elaborate in a few sentences]…
  • An example of someone having purpose would be…
4. Keep reminding yourself why you do sadhana.

Otherwise, your thoughts, your emotions, your physicality will get entangled with your runaway mind.

2. What is a regular and substantial online presence?

It is critical that you regularly, and substantially be present online. Students need to know the teacher is present, listening and contributing to their learning. Consider the following.

  • Leading by example. Participate in discussions, give feedback, and respond to questions in a timely manner
  • Your presence is motivational. If students notice your absence for an extended period of time, they may feel you don’t care. This can have a devastating demotivating effect and plummet levels of participation.
  • Be yourself online. Allowing your own personality to show. Learner’s want to see you as a ‘real’ person rather than an authoritarian figure.
4. What is engagement?

There are three primary factors for engagement in every online learning environment: the student, the teacher, and the content.

  1. When a learner engages with the instructor there is relationship and when a learner engages with another learner there is also relationship.
  2. When a learner engages with the content there is relevance and interest.
  3. When an instructor engages with the content there is expertise and the potential for rigor.

When you bring relationship, relevance, and expertise together you will discover meaningful learner engagement in the online courses you teach.

  1. Relationship
    1. Relationship is the bond of trust and mutual respect between the instructor and learner, and between learners.
  2. Relevance
    1. What can I learn in my class that won’t just be for a grade but also can be something that I can take away, something that will be useful to me as an adult.
  3. Expertise
    1. Even though a teacher knows their subject thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to teach others. Online instructors not only have knowledge and expertise in their subject area but also in pedagogical and andragogical (adult learning) strategies. When instructors have expertise in a subject and how to learn they are more likely to inspire students to learn, grow and become responsible learners and citizens. The best online instructors use their expertise to foster students cognitive, emotional and behavioral engagement.
3. How do I engage and motivate students?
5. What is rapport and relationship?

Rapport is not something you do by announcement, telling or directing.   Rapport is developed by your ACTIONS.  It is the result from the things you DO. The relationship between the teacher and learner does not change even though they are online. Begin with simple decency. Develop a strong trust in each learner. There is a belief that students want to learn and they assume, until proven otherwise, that they can.

During the first week of the online course focus on getting to know your learners and on your learners getting to know you.  Learners often reveal past difficulties with the subject matter, personal issues that may affect their performance, job and family obligations and other outside influences that can vary from week to week. Knowing this information will help you to devise  strategies that to help your learners succeed during the semester. However, it is not good enough for you to get to know your learners without them getting to know you. Think about how and why you connect with your learners to create presence and build rapport.

  • Use the first week of the course to tell your learners about yourself.
  • Create an introductory video sharing your thoughts and stories.
  • Participate in all class discussions in ways that promote closer connections between all participants.
  • Be open with your learners.
  • Share your personal stories and experiences.
  • Humor is a wonderful for establishing openness and a level of comfort that nurtures the learning process.
  • Always address your learners by name.

Relationship is the bond of trust and mutual respect between the instructor and learner, and between learners.

  • When a learner engages with the instructor there is relationship.
  • When a learner engages with another learner there is also relationship.

College graduates…had double the chances of being engaged in their work and were three times as likely to be thriving in their well-being if they connected with a professor who stimulated them, cared about them, and encouraged their hopes and dreams.

Results from this study of 30,000 graduates of American colleges  concludes it all comes down to values and human connectedness.

As an online instructor you have the life changing opportunity to create and promote positive relationships that build confidence and open learners to discovering themselves.

6. How do build rapport and relationships online?

First, and foremost, a positive relationship between the instructor and the learner is critical for the learner to feel a connection between what he or she is learning and their hopes and dreams. When this happens a mutually respectful relationship begins to grow increasing the learners self-worth, sense of wellbeing and emotional engagement- Parker Palmer.

When relationship building is a priority in online courses the following occurs.

  1. Everyone cares about the other.
  2. Everyone enjoys interacting with each other.
  3. Everyone is sensitive to the specific needs of the other.

The most practical thing we can achieve in any kind of work is insight into what is happening inside us as we do it. The more familiar we are with our inner terrain, the more sure-footed our teaching–and living–becomes. If we want to develop the identity and integrity that good teaching requires, we must do something alien to academic culture: we must talk to each other about our inner lives–risky stuff in a profession that fears the personal and seeks safety in the technical, the distant, the abstract. We must look at two of the most difficult truths about teaching online.

  1. The first truth is that what we teach will never “take” unless it connects with the inward, living core of our students’ lives, with our students’ inward teachers.
    • We can, and do, make education an exclusively outward enterprise, forcing students to memorize and repeat facts without ever appealing to their inner truth–and we get predictable results: many students never want to read a challenging book or think a creative thought once they get out of school. The kind of teaching that transforms people does not happen if the student’s inward teacher is ignored
  2. The second truth is even more daunting: we can speak to the teacher within our students only when we are on speaking terms with the teacher within ourselves.
    • The student who said that her bad teachers spoke like cartoon characters was describing teachers who have grown deaf to their Inner guide, who have so thoroughly separated inner truth from outer actions that they have lost touch with a sense of self. Deep speaks to deep, and when we have not sounded our own depths, we cannot sound the depths of our students’ lives.

Parker Palmer Shorts

Help each student improve

Online learners must be recognized and treated as an individuals to help them improve. To make personal connections and build rapport with each learner, collect and keep relevant information about them. Tell your learners often they are an important part of the course and are missed if they are not participating. Here are a few other factors to build rapport with your students, (Factors for building rapport).

  • Caring Is crucial.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be approachable.
  • Be organized. 
  • Be enthusiastic about the subject. 
  • Ask about learners’ ambitions.
  • Use open and honest communication. 
  • Respond to learners as individuals.
  • Be positive and don’t take yourself to seriously.
  • Start your online course with a welcoming e-mail. 
  • Keep all PROMISES and due dates.
  • Reply within 24 hours to all e-mail received.
  • Use asynchronous communications for discussions, journals, projects, etc.
  • Send at least 2 e-mails each each week of the course. This is the foundation of your communication process.  Include what needs to be done and by when and additional clarification.
  • Be a POSITIVE motivator. Provide compliments on learners work, insights, extra efforts, outstanding projects or papers, etc.  
  • Get rid of the stuffy formal language.
  • Have fun.
  • Give students as much control as possible over their learning.
  • Provide non-judgmental feedback and stress opportunities to improve.
  • Provide many opportunities for learners to revise and improve their work.
7. What is synchronous and asynchronous communication?

Communication media falls into two categories: synchronous or asynchronous media. Asynchronous media would include e-mail, text or voice messages on mobile phones, podcasts or recorded video clips, online discussion forums within an LMS, Twitter, and Facebook. Synchronous media would include voice phone calls, text and audio conferencing over the web and video-conferencing (e.g. Blackboard Collaborate). Asynchronous communication advantages:

  • Asynchronous messages are more convenient for busy students.
  • Posts are permanent and can be accessed at any time.
  • More time for reflective learning.
  • Convenience for instructor.

Asynchronous communication can be frustrating when timely decisions need to be made within a tight timescale, such as deciding the roles and responsibilities for group work, the final draft of a group assignment, or a student’s lack of understanding that is blocking any further progress on the topic. Then synchronous communication is better. Synchronous communication advantages

  • to bring your students together once or twice during a semester,
  • to get a feeling of community at the start of a course,
  • to establish ‘presence’ as a real person with a face or voice at the start of a course,
  • to wrap up a course at the end,
  • to provide plenty of opportunity for  students to work among themselves.

Synchronous ‘lectures’ are superficial and do not work. Don’t lecture online or use a Powerpoint as a disguised lecture.

8. How do I manage online discussions?

U Organize the discussion by weeks or separate topics.Use the discussion forum to identify areas of misunderstanding and to develop skills such as critical thinking and clear communication.

  • Use discussion forums to;
    • identify misunderstandings,
    • encourage active participation of students,
    • raise topical issues related to the course,
    • develop student communication skills,
    • enable students to increase deep understanding or ‘knowledge construction’ through the testing of ideas and the questioning of the content, the instructor and other students.
  • Choose topics that promote critical thinking and avoid a ‘yes/no’ or ‘I agree or disagree’ response.
    • The topic should require students to draw on the course content, but also to go outside the course content and relate the topic to external events, either in their own lives or in the news.
    • The topic should allow students to draw from their own experiences.
  • Don’t take over the conversation.
    • It is a mistake for the instructor to respond immediately to every comment.
    • Encourage other students to respond and build a ‘culture’ of the students being in control, while knowing that you are there, watching and stepping in where necessary.
    • Ask how and why questions. Don’t give answers.
  • Give students clear roles.
    • Take it in turns to summarize a discussion.
    • Take it in turns moderating a discussion (keep an eye on it in case it gets out of hand).
  • Monitor discussions.
    • Use phone calls or private e-mails sometimes to prompt students or to check if there is a problem.
    • Discussion forums are an excellent way to track whether students are ‘missing’ or not keeping up with the course.
  • Be ‘present’ in each discussion topic at least three times a week, more often if possible.

In a study of 30,000 graduates of American colleges, no matter where they went to school, had twice the chances of being engaged in their work and were three times as likely to be thriving in their well-being, If they connected with a professor who stimulated them, cared about them, and encouraged their hopes and dreams.

The best online teachers understand the characteristics of their students and adapt accordingly. Underprepared, first-generation students are different from graduating seniors. Students differ in their ability to adjust to college, the level of monitoring and scaffolding they need, the amount of experience they have with online learning and the course management system, and so on.

9. What are interaction guidelines?

It is essential right at the start of a course to clearly described the guidelines of what is expected for interaction.


  • All students on the course are expected to read and contribute comments in the instructor-set online discussion topics within the specified timescale for each discussion.
  • Always respect other students’ contributions. If you think that someone else’s comment is dumb, politely provide an alternative view.
  • When commenting, always add something new to the discussion, rather than merely agreeing or disagreeing.
  • If you have a question, post it in the Cyber Cafe discussion forum, so that other students as well as the instructor can contribute to the answer.
  • If you want to discuss something privately, send the instructor an e-mail
  • The instructor will respond to questions and e-mails within 24 hours, except over holidays.
  • Create small tasks in the first week of a course that enables students to immediately apply your guidelines. Examples:
    • Ask learners to post their bio and respond to other students bio posts,
    • Ask learners to comment on a topic related to the course and their views before the course really begins, and
    • Phone or e-mail non-respondents in the first week.
    • Research indicates that students who do not respond to set activities in the first week are at high risk of non-completion.

During the first week make your presence felt and let your learners know your intention to actively and substantially interact online.


  • Provide an introductory discussion activity the first week of a course. and follow up closely with those that avoid the activity or have difficulties with it.
  • Reply to every learners introductory post. Let them know you care and you are there to help them improve.
  • Be helpful and constructive, rather than negative.
  • Ask how and why questions. Don’t provide answers.

Students will have vastly different prior learning, commitment, and approaches to learning.  Students learn differently. However, a teaching professional knows the goal is to help them improve, no matter where they are starting from! It’s not about how, or how long it takes, to achieve a learning outcome.

10. What are effective online time management strategies?

What are effective online time management strategies?

One of the many myths about teaching online, is that it saves time. Online teaching does not necessarily save or increase teaching time, but it highlights how teachers need to use their time differently. In an online environment the use of time tends to be more flexible and fragmented, so it is more effective practice for teachers to work in smaller blocks of time, more often, rather than concentrating their teaching on one large block of time once a week as they would in the traditional face-to-face class environment.

  • Flexibility of time. Teachers and students are able to work at a time which is convenient and more productive for them. This flexibility also allows for study to be incorporated more easily around the many other commitments of time poor students and teachers. Where teachers or students need to travel during semester (to conferences for example) they can continue with their teaching and learning while away
  • Continuous discussion. Online discussion forums, blogs, etc allow the discussion surrounding content or a topic to develop and continue between face-to-face class times
  • Time for reflection. Most online discussions take place asynchronously over a period of time. This offers opportunities for both students and teachers to reflect or further research a topic before responding
  • Global classroom. Online education is able to include participants from various international time zones which promotes a greater and more diverse mix of students and teachers. In addition, overseas guest lecturers or institutions can easily be given access to the course online to participate and share their knowledge
  •  Maximizes face-to-face time. Online learning can allow teachers to transfer certain components (eg. administrative matters, resources, etc) online which can free up face-to-face class time
  • Class available 24/7. Course material, resources, etc are always available and accessible at any time.
  • Work in smaller, more fragmented blocks of time. To prevent feelings of isolation and to maintain motivation, it is important for students to feel their teacher‘s presence online. This can be achieved by teachers ‘checking in’ online more often, but for smaller amounts of time (daily for 15 minutes for example) to join the discussion, answer any queries and guide the students support
  • Avoid burnout – set boundaries. It is easy for teachers to become a slave to the online environment, and to be checking in frequently to see how students are progressing. This can lead students expecting their teachers to be online constantly. It is essential therefore for teachers to set clear boundaries up-front about how much time they will spend online and how frequently students can expect them to be present
  • Expectations of Students. Teachers should set clear guidelines up-front for their students outlining their expectations of how much time and how frequently they expect them to be online. Where online participation is assessable and forms part of their grade, teachers need to clearly outline how this will be assessed.For example.
  • Satisfactory Contribution – two posts per discussion topic which indicates a sound understanding of the content
  • High Distinction-multiple posts throughout the development of a discussion topic; demonstrates a high level of understanding and synthesis of the content; also includes several responses to issues raised by other students.
  • Project submissions and deadlines. Plan carefully when projects are due. While most students prefer to work on an assignment over the weekend and submit early on a Monday morning, the days preceding submission is often the time that students have the most queries or requests for extensions of time. If the teacher does not intend to be available over the weekend, it is essential they clearly indicate to students that any such issues need to be forwarded to the teacher before the weekend

Be flexible

Finally, and most important, you must be flexible if you want to build rapport with your learners.

Go for a walk

%d bloggers like this: