I've been teaching online now for over 4 years, and one of the first downsides to the profession that I noticed was the student dropout rate. In the first year or two, once or twice a month I would receive and email with a subject line like "Jane Doe Has Dropped US History I," and I worried that it was my fault, only to discover that Jane had dropped every class in which she was enrolled. Worry aside, that's not to say there wasn't something I could do better.
Searching online I came across the book Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies For a Successful Semester Online, and I was struck by how simple some of the fixes were to improve engagement. After reading the book and implementing some of the author's suggestions, I became less of a grading mule, and more of a teacher who interacted with students online, and responsive to the needs of students who, in many cases, are without the induced discipline, restraints and expectations of a brick-and-mortar classroom (one of the largest obstacles in the online education environment).
Four years in and I hear from students frequently, respond promptly, and the amount of students who stick with and pass my classes has increased substantially. I owe much of the success in my online classes to the author and the tips & strategies he shared. Teachers and parents alike would benefit from reading Aaron Johnson's book Excellent Online Teaching.
Posted by Derek Postlewaite