Using Gmail Chat in an online course

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I like to make my courses personal and myself easily accessible to my students. One really easy way to do this is to encourage or rather force your students to use Gmail Chat to contact you. If you are an online instructor, then you spend a lot of time online. Also with the availability of mobile devices, you can be accessible almost anywhere, anytime for your students.

This does not mean that you should have no time of your own! You can decide when to answer Gmail chat inquiries from your students. And most students will understand you are not available 24 hours 7 days a week.

However using Gmail chat can be of great benefit to your students and yourself in answering quick questions and moving forward. The last thing I want to see is a pile of emails in my inbox that I need to read and then answer. I’d rather have a student contact me instantly, ask the question, and get on with our lives.

It is essential that you have your students add your email to their Gmail contact list. You will receive a notification that someone has invited you and all you have to do is accept.

From here on out that student will be able to contact you synchronously using Gmail chat.

Provide tutorial links to your students so that they know how to add you to their contact list and also how to access gmail chat. You might also tell them about the various mobile apps that will enable them to chat with you when they are on the move with their mobile devices.

Here are Google links that will provide this information:

How to add a contact in Gmail: http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=8933

How to use Gmail chat: http://support.google.com/chat/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=161934

How to install the Google Voice video plugin: http://support.google.com/chat/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=161993

Gmail chat also offers you the ability to send text messages, so your students could send a text message to your mobile number without incurring any additional charges on their own mobile device. Plus if they don’t have a mobile device they can still send you text messages this way. I highly recommend setting up a Google Voice account and using this number as your cell phone number. That way you won’t have to give out your personal cell phone number to your students.

Also tell your students if they have an android mobile device they can use the Google Talk app, which will allow them to communicate with you via gmail chat. If they are using an iPhone, they can use very if third party apps. IMO is a nice iPhone app.

So stay current with your students, create a personal atmosphere– a dynamic community of learners that will appreciate your immediate support and the free flow of communication.

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