AOI | Learning Innovations
Weekly Tip: Creating Connections
Building community in your course is important to the success of your students. The strategies provided in this tip can be used in any course type—online, in-person, or hybrid—to foster both student-to-student and student-to-instructor connections. Some helpful questions to consider before implementing any of the strategies in this tip are:
- How can I foster engaging conversation?
- How do I accommodate students learning in different time zones?
- What does it mean to be “checked-in” or “engaged” with a course?
- How do I ensure everyone is on the same page?
Set engagement expectations. Clear expectations are vital for ensuring your students are indeed checked in. Define and model what you expect in terms of student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-instructor interaction. Lean more about engagement and how it is defined by navigating to “Student-Centered Activities that Work across Delivery Modalities” under Resources.
Implement Active Learning Regularly
Active learning allows students to apply principles and concepts that are taught throughout the course. Additionally, active learning is a productive way to ensure students remain involved and engaged with course content, their peers, and the instructor. Through active learning, instructors can also gauge where their students are and identify misconceptions.
Give Consistent and Frequent Feedback
Giving consistent feedback can encourage students to contact you on their own in the future. Being the first to reach out to an instructor, especially online, can be intimidating for students. Providing regular feedback gives you an opportunity to check in with your students and to address any issues your students may be facing. This can also pose an opportunity to present students with resources that can help them connect better with your course and overcome any obstacles they may be facing.
Provide Students with Opportunities to Reflect
Reflection can take many forms, from journaling to metacognitive surveys. Through guided prompts, these exercises ask students to think about how they approached an assignment or task for example, what they could do differently in the future, or what they still have questions about. Learn more about metacognitive surveys by navigating to “Metacognitive Surveys” located under Resources.
Create Meaningful Engagement Opportunities
There are a variety of easily implemented strategies that can increase both student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction in your course.
- Discussion Forums
Discussion forums can be used as a main venue for conversation or as a supplement to lecture. Implementing discussion forums gives students the opportunity to take a step back and process information before responding to a prompt rather than doing so on the fly.
- Q & A Forums
Q & A forums are an extension of discussion forums. In this type of space, students can pose questions, and the instructor, or other students, can provide the answer. This is a great, low-stakes way to connect, especially when students get involved. Using a Q & A forum can also reduce the number of emails an instructor receives as course-related questions are answered in a single area for all students benefit from.
Announcements are a simple way to communicate updates and reminders, and to ensure your students on the same page.
Conferences are another way to check in with students. Holding brief one-on-one or small group conferences early in the semester can set the tone and encourage students to visit office hours in the future. If your course has a large enrollment, small group conferences can work in place of individual conferences.
Bonus: Regardless of class size, small group conferences can have many benefits, including but not limited to creating opportunities for peer-instruction.
- Teaching Tool Boxes
- Group Learning Technique List (pdf)
- Student-Centered Activities that Work across Delivery Modalities
- Creating Engaging Discussions
This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact email@example.com or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.