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During the question and answer portion of the keynote address of the 2015 Online Learning & Teaching Conference, Kim Onines asked a great question to President Gilbert about the residency requirement to be admitted to our online program. Students either have to have earned 15 credits on one of the CES campuses or need to have gone through the Pathway program to matriculate to BYU-Idaho online. 

His response to her question was a peculiar one, one, I think, to which we should all pay attention, 

"Probably one of the biggest things in removing that [residency requirement] in time will be whether or not we and the Board feel like the change in the student's life is happening online in the way it does when we gather [face-to-face]."

While I think most of us would agree that the potential to effect change in the life of another may be most easily achieved through personal, face-to-face relationships,

What are you doing in your course to impact the lives of your students in ways previously only achieved through face to face experiences?

If we aren't seriously reflecting on this question and seeking to spiritually impact our students then, in my opinion, we are wasting everyone's time.

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Jerrod Guddat teaches GS 111 Intro to BYU-Idaho online. You can read more of his blog posts on his community profile.

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  • Jerrod,

    I just received this little note from a student in response to a note I sent out with the little graphic below his note. I must confess his note made my eyes fill with tears.

    Scott, Ian
    Today, 10:59 AM
    Haney Isakson, Karen

    This is really just for me?

    Because you have no Idea how much it helped. Thank You. - Ian Scott

    • This is awesome!  Thank yous from students are the best feedback.  I love this graphic.  It strengthened me today.  Thank you!

    • Meme saved to my files! Thanks Karen. Hope to have one of those student messages too. ;-)

  • That final statement is humbling and causes me great reflection on my work this past year.  While I thoroughly enjoy this unique opportunity I wonder if I am doing enough and if I am making a sufficent impact.  What I do know:  1. My students are making an impact on me.  2. I am learning a significant amount through this process,  3. I am reading great work produced by the students.  4.  I must do better on the DB's to have the impact that is expected.  The sheer volume of posts and responses seem to require more time than I have.  

    The gift of discernment, as mentioned, is so vital to our (my) success.

    • Discernment is important Craig, when talking about the number of students we are attempting to serve in each semester. For what it is worth, I keep a spreadsheet of contacts so I know who I have contacted and by what method (Discussion Board, Email, Feedback, Instant Message, Text, Phone, etc.) Below is a snapshot of my spreadsheet:

  • I have pondered these ideas many times over several years as an online instructor and as an online student. A natural outcome of learning something is the desire to share it, so one of the ways that I try to improve my interactions with students is to ask them how what they are learning is impacting their daily life. I try to listen to their responses and build on those by sharing my testimony and experiences in juggling life and being an online student.  Like others have mentioned, the miracles come when I am prayerful about student needs as their instructor (what I can do specifically for them), but also as a fellow-citizen in their class sincerely interested in helping them achieve their goals (asking Heavenly Father to help them and bless them in their efforts).    

    It is a privilege that is hard to put into words to be an online instructor at BYU-I.  I remember Elder Clark, when he was president here, saying that we need to remember that we are brothers and sisters and no matter our official role, our purpose is to help each other reach our heavenly potential.  When I remember that my students can and will help me grow my own disciple leadership skills as much I hope to help them, my interactions take on a fervent desire to build and grow together.  Practically, for me, this has meant being available when students have needs.  Of course, we can't and shouldn't be on call 24/7, but I do little things to show my students that they can contact me at any time and if I can possibly respond in the moment, I will.  I think of Elder Holland's talk from the last general conference on how to better care for the members of the church and I find myself thinking that though online has its limitations, there are also great advantages, and one of them is that we have unique one-to-one opportunities. My experience has been that it is in the unstructured, unplanned interactions that I have had the opportunity to strengthen students most. I guess the main point of my thoughts is that the power to strengthen to our students, absent time and space, is a resource that has a divine purpose and I know that when we use it wisely, we are able to speak and interact heart to heart even if we never meet face to face.  

    • Thanks for all of these thoughts.  I am reading them over to let it all sink in. I noticed you said some phrases about online education with BYU-I: one to one, heart to heart, face to face. . .these ideas are rolling around in my mind now. I am going to work on developing this heart to heart feeling in my class.  Maybe we can feel like we are almost face to face.   Thanks!

      • I think that it is a constant effort, but so rewarding.  I appreciate your response.

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