It is not always easy for adult learners to navigate an online learning experience. Adult learners enrolled in online graduate programs may become vulnerable and overwhelmed with the expectations that lie ahead. At first glance, the expectations and assignments may seem insurmountable, which may negatively impact learners’ self-esteem and ability to complete the course. Learners may lose the motivation to learn, become frustrated, and may decide to drop out of the course and ultimately withdraw from their program. However, all of this may be avoided if the instructor takes the time to incorporate strategies that create a positive instructor-learner connection. Using over thirty years of combined teaching experience, the authors have identified opportunities and strategies to connect with learners and provide positive feedback throughout the course. Holding at least one meeting at the beginning of the term will build connections and trust while creating a collegial learning environment. When a connection exists, adult learners may be less hesitant to discuss and accept the feedback. The words instructors use in responding to learners make the difference between superficial and insignificant feedback or feedback that inspires learners to become more reflective, think more critically, and question their assumptions. It is the responsibility of the instructor to provide feedback that encourages learners to be reflective while expanding their thoughts and ideas. Feedback should validate the learners’ current knowledge and experience. The words used in feedback may have the power to move learners forward in their thought processes or thwart opportunities for growth and introspection. The goal is to inspire instructors to recognize the importance of connections as well as the importance of words they use and how both impact the learning experience.
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