We are living in an increasingly anxious world.  According to Beyond Blue, one quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime, and the rate seems to be the highest among younger people.

Online learning by its very nature can be anxiety-provoking for some people. The lack of human reference points, lots of texts, limited opportunities to socialise and build trust can lead to students feeling more anxious. In today’s Podcast discussion club, we chatted about a podcast about humanising online education (Tip: listen from minute 7).

This podcast is an interview with Dr Michelle Pacansky-Brock (a US- based educational developer) who has a particular interest in humanising online education.

Here are the top tips/ideas that we discussed.

  1. Welcome video

A short welcome video is one of the top things generally recommended for creating welcoming online units. Seeing/hearing an instructor gives students a sense of a real person, and an increasing number of units at MQ seem to be using welcome videos. Some units even feature ‘meet your tutor’ videos (see this unit for example).

Welcome videos appear to be the most relatable if they are recorded using basic (rather than high end) tools. For example, a Zoom recording of a person in their office or home with cats and/or kids running around in the background might have more ‘interpersonal bang for your buck’ compared to a polished studio-recorded version.

So if not having a ‘perfect’ set-up is what has been holding you back from recording a welcome video, it might be time to reconsider it, and go for it! Further information on welcome videos can be found in this TECHE article.

  • Student videos

Another idea from Dr Michelle Pacansky-Brock is to use what she refers to as a ‘Wisdom Wall’. She uses VoiceThread (also available at MQ and is currently underutilised – a training session available on Thur 20th of May at 09:00 am Sydney time!) to invite students to share advice with future cohorts. Here’s the example of Wisdom Wall from her website.  

And another approached shared by one of the participants.

  • Hopeful language

The podcast advocates using ‘positive’ and ‘hopeful’ language in describing unit requirements and the ways of communicating them to students. For example, describe requirements and recommendations in terms of what students can do to be successful, such as “doing x, y and z will help you succeed in this unit” instead of phrasing the same in a negative manner e.g. “if you do not do x, y and z you are more likely to fail the unit”.

One of the participants also shared an example of using an early quiz that asks students about their goals for the unit (getting an HD/D/P/C) and provides them with information on what the unit expectations are. See another Teche post on Kindness Pedagogy.

  • Audio feedback

We also talked about the potential of audio feedback (a feature available in Turnitin – see creating a voice comment) to have a big impact on students. Research seems to support this idea as audio feedback has been found to be more engaging and efficacious compared to written feedback (see, for example, (Cann, 2014; Lunt & Curran, 2010), and some discussion participants were keen to try it out.

See this resource for one of the ways to approach audio feedback. Given the time limitations of Turnitin, you might want to focus only on the key issues and interpersonal elements (relational, valediction and invitation).

Join us for the next Podcast discussion club!

Posted by Olga Kozar

I'm a 'long-term' Mq girl. I did my PhD here and taught on different courses, ranging from 1st year to PhD students. I now work in Learning and Teaching, which I love. I have 2 young kids and a dog, and I love meeting other Mq people, so give me a shout if you'd like to talk 'learning and teaching' or would like to brainstorm together.


  1. […] For inspiration on ways students could share advice and information using VoiceThread, see the ‘Wisdom Wall’ and ‘Student Story’ examples in this Teche post about humanising online teaching. […]


  2. […] while the graphic syllabus is helpful to visually present key milestones. See this post on humanising online teaching and this post on Graphic syllabus resources which has some […]


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