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Effective Communication in an Online School

07 Oct

Effective Communication in an Online School

Posted By: 
Kimberly White


This week's message comes from school co-founder Christopher Geis. Christopher lives in sunny San Diego and travels throughout the country to meet with CMASAS students and staff.

While you will mostly hear about successful and positive outcomes from CMASAS students, one outcome has bothered me for the past month and I would like to share it with you and hear your thoughts and comments.

Before I helped found CMASAS and developed the CMASAS online school community, I worked at local schools where I engaged with students and parents face to face every day. I loved spending time with my students and their families and enjoyed those real life experiences.

From the very early stages of CMASAS, I knew that I wanted to keep my commitment to personal relationships with our families despite our distance. It makes me so happy to know that even though we are separated and the majority of our conversations and relations are via virtual media, this school has cultivated amazing relationships and students have received an excellent education.

While we strive to be the best educators possible and meet every students’ needs, there is the rare occasion in which a student is not a good fit for online learning, or more specifically, our model of personalized learning.

While our instructional model and curriculum is beautifully crafted to meet students’ individual needs and nurture continual student-teacher interactions, the model only works well when all parties – the parent, the student and the instructor - are committed and engaged.

It’s like a three-legged stool:  all three legs are needed to be equally balanced. If any one leg is lost or broken you may lose your balance, go flying off and hit the ground hard.

In order for students to be successful, it is imperative that not only the student and parent be engaged but also our course instructors.

Online schools often struggle with issues of miscommunication, disconnected interactions or unmet expectations. Some of the biggest and most successful global companies also face similar challenges. I also think about how we face these obstacles on an individual level, not just in business or education.

My heart goes out to military families that are separated by so much distance and still continue to nourish relationships through that separation. A good friend’s husband is in the military and I watch how she has to schedule phone calls with him in the middle of the night, sacrificing parts of herself to sustain a life with him.

In reflecting on these situations, the communications that I sometimes have with parents, and the realities that all relationships (professional/social/academic) require maintenance and hard work, I have identified several key factors to create and maintain good distance-based relationships.

These factors are essential for our online school to function properly and for each student to be given the opportunity to thrive:

  • Adaptability - Being able to go with the flow and make compromises is essential for both parties needs to be met. This is why we make our curriculum fluid and adaptable:  It can be personalized to each student’s needs.
  • Trust - Both parties need to be able to trust that the other will keep his/her commitments. A simple example of this is our expectation that instructors will call you back the same day or within 24 hours; that’s a promise. And when instructors say they really need your student’s contact information, that’s a necessary piece of information for effective communication.
  • Clear expectations - Both parties clearly and openly express their expectations, desires and needs. Expectations are best expressed at the beginning of a relationship, or in this case upon a student’s enrollment. But needs, desires and thoughts continually change, so it’s essential for both parties to constantly express their expectations.
  • Prompt responses - Both parties need to commit to responding to each other’s communications in a timely manner so that problems can be fixed and good interactions fostered. It’s also important that when an issue arises that students and parents notify the school right away so that the issue can be resolved.
  • Empathy - We all have bad days, and conflicts or issues within relationships are often emotional, so it’s necessary for both parties to give each other grace and empathy.
  • Respect - Similar to empathy, both parties could benefit by communicating with a commitment to respect. This translates to the golden rule, “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
  • A common goal or attitude - Every instructor, administrator and PEC at CMASAS is committed to doing everything they can to serve each student individually and empower them to live remarkable lives. It is essential that parents and students also adopt this same commitment and focus - to work hard, dream big and learn something new each day enhancing their education and making their experience with CMASAS a great one.

In no way do I have all the answers to the challenges of remote relationships and communicating virtually, but I am confident that if all of us in the CMASAS learning community commit to the practices above that we can and will foster great relationships.

I am always here to answer questions, listen to concerns and help resolve issues. Please never hesitate to contact me, or any of the CMASAS staff.

I want to thank each and every student and parent for their commitment to CMASAS and this wonderful virtual, yet still connected, community.

Warm regards,

Christopher Geis

Executive Director, CMASAS

888-832-9437 ext 610