- Western Governors University IT professor Joe Barnhart writes in Campus Technology about the value of using humor in teaching online courses as a means for greater student engagement. While every virtual classroom professor may not be a natural comedian or storyteller, using communications to inspire creativity, comfort and motivation are key to helping learners to persist and complete.
- Unexpected comments, levity in the midst of otherwise monotonous content, and encouraging student to match the professor's humor is an ideal way to build community within the classroom, which can translate to learners and professors quickly adapting to personalities within the virtual classroom.
- On a serious note, Barnhart says, establishing clear expectations and providing timely feedback are essential elements of the virtual learning experience which are accentuated with humor.
College professors' personalities are at the core of how students remember their college careers and are inspired to pursue certain professional work based upon exposure from a unique professor. But it's not always nice and funny professors who are able to earn credibility among students; sometimes gruff professors with tough exteriors, high expectations and genius-level understanding of curriculum can also engage students, based upon individual backgrounds and how that type of personality translates with the type of curriculum or information being taught.
These are the notions that most college students experience with in-person teaching and learning; virtually none of these interpersonal elements which augment learning are available in most online classes, save for those which are powered through institutional investments in video conferencing and specified video production, as New York University did two years ago with distance learning modules in Shanghai.
Online professors have even more of a burden of being engaging, culturally competent and knowledgeable about subject matter in order to make the virtual learning experience memorable enough for students' to think differently about curriculum and their own professional goals. Barnhart suggests unique assignments as one key, but another could be on-site colloquium opportunities which are popular among for-profit schools like Capella University and Grand Canyon University, where students and professors can meet in person, even for a short period of time to strengthen the sense of community and to engage in a more personalized way.