by Kate Grovergrys
Online students will learn best when they feel a strong connection to their instructor and their classmates. The key is to focus on connection over content and prioritize relationships as a building block to student success. Here are some tips instructors can utilize to foster more meaningful connections with online students.
1. Strive to be approachable online
- Show your face! Whenever possible incorporate video into your asynchronous online instruction, weekly announcements, grading feedback, etc.
- Create a communication plan for your course that tells students how best to contact you and when they can expect to hear back.
- Commit to a quick instructor response time. Set an expectation that you can regularly exceed.
- Get to know your students and reach out to them when you sense they need extra support.
2. Establish your social presence online.
- Send a welcome email to your students at the start of the course and consider including a brief introductory video of yourself.
- Add an instructor profile page to your online classroom site where you share photos and other personal information.
- Be a storyteller! Share personal anecdotes that help your students get to know you.
- Show up early for synchronous online class sessions and engage in small talk with your students.
3. Start online class with a personal check-in activity.
- The check-in activity can take the form of a personal question of the day.
- The goal is for each student to share an idea with the class.
- Encourage students to suggest potential check-in questions of the day about topics that interest them.
- Take notes on what you learn about your students, so you can refer back to that information when you interact 1-on-1 with them.
4. Connect with students 1-on-1 and in small groups.
- Have students complete a welcome survey at the start of your course, so you can learn more about them.
- Take 5 minutes each day to send a personalized email to a few of your students. Focus on simply checking in with them, rather than addressing specific questions or concerns.
- Normalize 1-on-1 meetings with students, so they realize that it doesn’t mean they are doing something wrong.
- Invite students to visit you during online office hours and provide incentives (i.e. extra credit points or course gamification elements).
5. Facilitate social interaction among your students.
- Include collaborative learning activities in your lesson plan for synchronous online class.
- Invite students to show up a few minutes early to synchronous online class sessions to chat informally with their classmates.
- Encourage students to meet for virtual study group sessions and provide incentives (i.e. extra credit points or course gamification elements).
- Create an online discussion forum in your online course for “off-topic” conversations.
Looking for more ideas about how to foster a strong connection with your online students? Check out these resources!
- Gonzalez, J. (Host). (2020, Nov. 23).Connecting Students in a Disconnected World (No. 159) [Audio podcast episode].In Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/breakout-rooms-social-interaction/
- Pacansky-Brock, M. (2020). How to humanize your online class, version 2.0 [Infographic]. https://brocansky.com/humanizing/infographic2
- Wong, C. (2020 Oct. 14). Building Relationships: How to Connect From a Distance. Faculty Focus. https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/online-student-engagement/building-relationships-how-to-connect-from-a-distance/