Renee Citlau and her colleagues at Cypress High School in Anaheim, California, were puzzled why a student was performing much better in the online class Citlau taught than in his face-to-face classes, so she asked him why. The answer was heartbreaking.

“I feel more comfortable in my online class because no one can hear my voice and make fun of my accent.”

Renee Citlau, the 2013 Online Teacher of the Year, tells that story not to pull at heartstrings, but to demonstrate the potential of online classes to encourage student engagement and foster a sense of community.

“In the online classroom, it’s so important that community is developed, and we know that because we really have to work at making that online course engaging, or our students aren’t going to come back,” she said.

Renee, an online business teacher at Cypress High School, spearheaded the Anaheim Union High School District’s online program in 2007, and now helps her fellow teachers incorporate online tools into their classrooms. She uses Blackboard Collaborate to meet with students in her online classes through weekly virtual sessions.

We had the honor of sitting down with Renee in our Washington, D.C., offices and hearing from the best in the business what classroom teachers can learn from online teachers. Watch Renee explain the importance of developing community in online classes:

To learn more, check out EdTech: Focus on K-12’s interview with Renee on 5 Must-Have Elements for Every Online Class.

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  • Shannon Forte

    This is great stuff Annie! Collaborate really helps engage an enormous spectrum of learners and personalities. Bring added meaning to accessibility. Thanks for sharing this!