To further help students engage with him and with their peers, Tillman substantially increases communication outreach with students via online class and individual conversations as well as fostering discussion boards where students can connect with each other, introduce themselves, talk about their goals and what they want to do. In Spring term, the results of his efforts were significant: Grades were up, morale was good and student feedback was at an all-time high — and even emotional at times.
“It’s been so worth it. I usually get a few very appreciative emails each semester. But Spring semester, it was many, and they made me tear up that I was making a difference,” said Tillman, who has taught fully online, hybrid and in-person classes at UC for the past three years, is teaching online this summer and will present about creating meaningful connections in distance learning at the U.S. Distance Learning Association annual conference this year.
The secret to the best learning outcomes, he says, is consistency and caring: “The students tell me they really like that I have things due on the same day every week, so it is easy to get into a routine. And I not only care about them as individuals but I very much care about their education. I tell them in an introductory class video: ‘Don’t mistake my caring and occasional levity for me not being all business. Your education is my business, and I’m all business.’”
- Watch Rick Tillman's "Proud" video, a message he delivers, in some form, to all his classes.