Who are your students?

In the previous activity you spent time introducing yourselves and finding out more about who you’re learning with on this course. Now it’s time to focus on who your students are, and what they need.

Learning in a new context

Maybe you’ve known them for months, or years. You may have spoken to them in seminars, met their family at parent-teacher nights, or delivered one-to-one support and guidance. Or maybe you know little more than their name or student number. They’ve been to your classes, but you’ve never really interacted, met, or communicated as much as you’d have liked.

Whoever they are, students around the world are finding themselves in a new learning and interaction environment, and for many, moving away from the familiar may leave them feeling overwhelmed or alienated.

Many online tools, theories and approaches for learning are presented as instant solutions. At FutureLearn we believe that before jumping into content creation or embedding technologies, it’s vital to stop and consider the end user. These are the people who will be working with and learning from the decisions you make.

As this point, we’d like to note it’s important to remember many of the considerations about your students will be beyond your area of influence. This activity is not about finding solutions. It is not your responsibility as teacher to try to ‘fix’ everything. But you can develop your empathy and understanding of who your learners are, use that to inform your choices, and signpost to support or guidance where possible.

Who are your students? A shortcut to preparing them to succeed

Your students are individuals and of course there will be many variables, but simply trying to put ourselves in the situation of our students can be a shortcut to working out how to support them and ready them for success in online learning as best as we can.

Before trying to think of teaching solutions or approaches, try taking a little time to pause and ask yourself who it is you’re doing this for. If you’re already in the middle of working online, think of this as taking a step back to look at the bigger picture.

General considerations

  • Who are the students for whom you’re designing or planning (age, grade, level etc)?
  • Where are they in their overall course of study?
  • Who might they rely on to help them or facilitate their learning (particularly important with young students, teens or young adults)?

Digital literacies, connectivity, accessibility

  • What physical setting might they be in when engaging with you or your teaching?
  • What devices or connectivity might they have access to?
  • How comfortable are they with the internet?
  • How digitally literate are they?
  • Have they previously learned online? (Remember, that doesn’t have to be formal - they may have watched instructional videos for recipes, collated information to choose a holiday, planned a route, or learned a dance on TikTok)

Study skills, health, pastoral support

  • How adept are they with time management, personal planning, autonomy?
  • How might the sudden move from physical educational space to an online context impact their mental or emotional health?
  • What health or accessibility issues might have a different impact on their ability to succeed with online learning than on their success with traditional learning?
  • What emotional factors or external stressors might impact their ability to succeed?

There will be many more considerations depending on your context… what questions have we missed?

Your task (10-15 mins)

We have pulled the above prompts into a persona template, which you can find attached at the bottom of this step in .pdf, .docx or Google Doc formats. We recommend you make a copy for yourself and work through the questions in the template, which are a copy of those presented above.

Discussion

In the comment section, please describe your teaching context and who your students are. You could use some of the supplied prompts to guide your thinking, but feel free to express yourself any way you wish.

Remember: this activity is not about finding solutions. It is not your responsibility as a teacher to ‘fix’ everything. Our goal is to design for our students, and consider what support they might need.

Community tip

This could be an ideal opportunity to find people in very similar situations to you. If you see a comment that grabs your attention, you can like it, or follow the learner so you can easily keep track of their activity in this course.

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This article is from the free online course:

How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students

FutureLearn

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