Winter term has started. Or has it? With one P.S.U. snow day and a Tuesday starting out with a lot of melting ice, it feels like the term has started a bit slowly and without the usual first day urgency.
Although I was home on our snow day, I was by no means not working because let’s face it — online teaching and learning never really sleeps.
I briefly instant messaged with a colleague on our snow day, checking in to see how she was spending her snow day. It turned out that we were both doing the same thing: using the day as an opportunity to informally touch base with students. Her mode of contact was phone calls, and mine was instant messaging, but the idea was the same. We were using the slow start as an opportunity to onboard students in a personal way. The result of this? Creating a foundation for a real relationship between student and instructor, which usually then sets the scene for students to also build stronger relationships with each other.
In an online class, relationship building is the invisible work that can make a course great, especially when we’re teaching community-based learning courses that require a close community of learners who have a foundation of respect and are willing to be vulnerable as we discuss topics that are both personal and social.
This snow day experience gave me an idea — to possibly use the Sunday before each term as a day to communicate with students in this informal way, via phone calls, instant messaging, Google Hangout. This could be a day of open office hours when people are not worried yet about assignments and due dates, a day when relationships are most important.
For some preliminary information on how to use texting and instant messaging as ways of connecting with students (and to encourage students to connect amongst themselves in these ways as well), take a look at the following resources:
- Exploring the Use of Text and Instant Messaging in Higher Education Classrooms
- Online Chat & Conferencing Resource List/Ideas
- Making Online Teaching More Effective: Advice from a Student Perspective
And let me know what you did on your snow day, how you build your relationship with your students online, and what you think of the links.
Hope to hear from you soon!