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How humour plays a role in online teaching

Sharing a laugh is often times the best way to break the ice and spark conversation. Humour can also work towards connecting students which is why eLearning Adviser (eLA) David-Jack Fletcher has weaved jokes into his teaching strategy.

“Students may not know how to engage in an online forum and I find a good strategy is to bring humour into teaching while staying focussed on the learning material.

“This helps students feel much more comfortable and often they will make jokes of their own to help foster an environment that they want to engage in.”

On top of teaching sociology online, David-Jack is also a tutor at Macquarie University while undergoing his PhD in Cultural Studies. The Newcastle, NSW resident said he began teaching online after a chance conversation.

“A friend of mine told me about Swinburne Online and I really wanted to get some experience in online education; I felt it would help me learn and understand different teaching practices.

“It is important to recognise that each student has a different learning style and has different needs in terms of their academic level,” David-Jack says.

“I find that online education attracts a much broader range of people because it is so flexible and can be done from anywhere. I really love discovering the diverse range of students in my classes and finding ways to make them all engage with one another.”

David-Jack developed a desire to help others at an early age, which led him into teaching. He says his experience in the online environment has helped develop his techniques through collaboration with his peers. 

“I found that most employers tend to homogenise employees and adopt the ’number system’, where Swinburne operates in an opposite way; most likely because we are already usually faceless, it becomes much more important to be an individual. Teaching online has fostered that, for me, and it is something I really value.

“The eLA Lounge has been a great support mechanism for me, as well, where recently I had a really difficult situation in which I felt I had really failed the student, but was given great advice and support that helped me see this was not the case. My colleagues are always there in e-form, which is a real support and comfort.”

But David-Jack says a big part of teaching online is keeping students motivated to reach their education goals.

“A lot of students can easily lose motivation in an online environment, so I try to help students in any way I can to ensure not only continued motivation, but also continued improvement in their work.

“Just recently I had a student who had forgotten about the assessment entirely and I knew it was uncharacteristic of this person to not submit anything, so I contacted them to find out what had happened. Without going into details, this student had a lot on their plate and instantly stressed about losing marks and receiving a zero grade.

“So I guided this person through the assessment requirements, the extension request process and assured this person that they would be fine. After helping this student through these processes, the assessment was submitted and no grades were lost.

“Of course, the student did work exceptionally hard to get this done, so I can’t take all the credit there.”