July 15

How to Use Active Listening When Teaching an Online Course

Teach Online


When you’re teaching an online course, how do you make sure your students are learning? It’s not like on the field or the track where you can blow a whistle and regain your student’s attention. How do you ensure that your online course is an active and engaging learning environment just like your in-person training is? An essential skill for your teaching toolbox is active listening.

What Is Active Listening?

Active listening is a technique developed for deep understanding. It’s not just hearing or listening passively but taking in what you hear and truly absorbing it. This technique should be used by both students in learning course material and by coaches and instructors checking for students’ understanding.

The Basic Process of Active Listening

The basic process is to listen to what the speaker is saying, and then summarise the main points back to them in your own words to make sure that you understood them completely. It demonstrates that you understand and, if you don’t, clarifies the main points of the speaker so that you do.

Active Listening in the Online Learning Environment

In an in-person teaching environment, we have non-verbal clues such as eye contact, nodding, and open body language to show the speaker that we understand what they’re saying. One of the challenges of teaching and learning online is that we don’t have these cues available to us. This is why active listening is critically important in the online learning environment.
It’s also important because it’s harder to build a trusting relationship in an online environment, and this kind of relationship is essential for teaching. Active listening helps to build this close bond between teacher and student.

How You Can Use Active Listening Online

Active listening facilitates the two-way communication necessary for online learning. Both teacher and student should use it.
As the teacher, you can use active listening when requesting feedback from your students. When you ask for comments or feedback from your student, repeat back to them the main points of what they said to make sure you fully understood. This shows that you were listening and understand what they’re saying.
You can also use this skill to check for students’ understanding. Ask them to summarize what they learned and fill in any details they seem to have missed. It can also be useful for peer-to-peer communication during activities or discussions.

Listen Carefully: 4 Tips for Active Listening

  1.  Active listening requires your full attention. No matter how much you’re tempted to, don’t multi-task during online courses and especially when a student is speaking.
  2. Don’t add judgments or opinions when repeating back what someone said. Simply paraphrase the most important points. You can save discussion and opinions for later after you’ve clarified your understanding.
  3. Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking. Let them finish fully before you clarify their main points.
  4. You can still use non-verbal communication in an online environment. If you’re running a live training session over video, your students can see you, so nod, maintain an open posture, and make appropriate interjections to show you’re listening.

It takes some effort to master active listening at first, but soon it will become second nature, and this is a skill you can use in any area of your business or personal life.

Do you want to learn more about teaching online courses? Book a call and see if you’ll benefit from a successful online course that improves student success rates and helps you achieve your business goals.

About the author 

Sarah Arrow

Digital marketing training for sports, athletics and martial arts coaches. Mother of elite athletes. Owner of an insane German Shepherd Rescue. Co-founder of the OnlineVisibilityAcademy.com where 2,500 students enroll to master their marketing.

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