When we share best practices with other faculty through Faculty Connects we are truly building a learning community that will better serve our students. In this article, Provost Mary Beth Hanner shares an example of how much instructor feedback and personal attention means to our students and to their perception of the learning experience.
Mary Beth Hanner
I have the privilege of working with some amazing higher education professionals who are also exceptional teachers. One of them is Emilsen Holguin, assistant provost for Academic Operations. She recently shared some student reflections written at the end of a leadership course she taught for the School of Health Sciences. Holguin tried a tip offered by Dr. Wendy Trevor, executive director, Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Assessment. When Trevor teaches one of our online courses, she keeps a spreadsheet of personal facts that her students share during the course of the online semester and uses that information when it is appropriate in a personal email to the student – it might be a few words of encouragement or kudos for a great posting on the discussion board. In her email, she incorporates something personal that she learned about the student (e.g., wishing someone the best on their upcoming marriage or inquiring on the health of a child who had been ill). This approach allows her to reach out to individual students and helps to build a personal connection with them.
Holguin picked up on this idea and took it further. This link to a “Faculty Connects” article http://faculty.excelsior.edu/personalized-emails-highlight-course-accomplishments/ explains how she built on Trevor’s idea and added a personal email at the end of the leadership course she taught for the School of Health Sciences in which she reflected on what she believed the student learned during the term. She also wanted to say a personal good bye to each student. She didn’t ask for any response back but got wonderful, reflective comments. Holguin had no idea what a gift she would get back. She said, “It did take some time to send personalized emails, but I consider this time a very small investment considering the responses that I received from my students. Although I did it to provide a better learning experience for the students, the truth is that I improved my own teaching experience by receiving such positive feedback. I will continue this practice in my future courses, and I hope that this example can inspire other online instructors to build more human connections with their students”.
I wanted to share a few excerpts from the some of the students’ comments:
- Thank you for the time you put into this course. I think there is a direct correlation between that and the improvement you mention. I actually received some exciting career news. I was asked to apply and interview for a real manager/leadership position; next week I will be interviewing for an IT Customer Service Management position . . . I know that I will use what I learned in this course to help be successful in this role if selected. Thank you so much!
- I want to tell you I appreciate your feedback on assignments. Getting feedback that you can build on is essential. I do not want to know just what I need to do to meet the requirements but also recommendations, or tips to improve. You always offer this information and I greatly appreciate it. I like knowing where I am lacking or how to improve. Your passion for you[r] work and the time you take to teach/lead is inspirational.
- Thank you professor. I went into this class thinking, how much more could there be to learn about management? Well, to start, you taught me that there is a lot left to learn and that I will continue learning it throughout the remainder of my career. Thank you for everything.
- Thank you for everything! I have learned more than I expected to in this course. I appreciate your guidance through this class and all of your feedback. It has helped me explore myself and be able to use the lessons learned. Thank you for taking the time to help me develop as a leader. This class has been a great stepping stone for my learning career. I hope to one day be an effective, strong leader for myself and my family.
The students’ comments demonstrate what happens when learning is truly transformational. They didn’t just meet another degree requirement – they had a deep learning experience. This type of learning creates an incredible ripple effect – not only are the students impacted but others who they work with or serve are also affected. I encourage you to try out some of the great ideas that are generated in this publication and to share your own best practices with your Excelsior colleagues through Faculty Connects.