While establishing supportive interpersonal relationships with students is one of the most fundamental tenets of effective teaching, it can be particularly crucial for students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. If you are moving from a face-to-face class, you have the advantage of already having had the opportunity to establish a personal connection with students; the challenge as you transition into a virtual environment will be to maintain that connection.
Provide opportunities for live, synchronous engagement
Whether to go synchronous or asynchronous is one of the biggest debates in distance learning in general. There are good reasons to make much more of your course asynchronous (see discussion under Be Accessible), but one critical reason to continue to give students opportunities to interact with you directly is to maintain your connection with them. Two good options:
- Hold virtual student (office) hours. You may want to offer a few different times that will work for students in different time zones, use the Virtual Student (Office) Hours guide.
- Conduct a synchronous virtual lecture at the regular class time and record it (use the web conferencing (webinars) guide). There will almost certainly be some students who will be willing and able to attend so they can interact with you there; everyone else can access the recording asynchronously. You could also consider splitting up class sessions, so, for example, you offer the Tuesday class synchronously, but the Thursday ‘class’ is asynchronous. For effective practices, read through the video creation guide.
Talk to your students about what is happening
No matter the course modality it is essential to acknowledge the anxiety and fear that our students may be experiencing due to current events (e.g., campus, local, statewide, national, global). Whether you do this synchronously (e.g., face-to-face in a physical classroom, virtually via a conversation in Webex) or asynchronously (e.g., an email to the class), let your students know that you are aware of how difficult this all is for everyone, and let them know that you want to support them.
Consider if there are ways to incorporate a current event into the class itself or give students opportunities (such as through a reflective writing exercise) to express their concerns. Review the Be Identity-Conscious page along with the Teaching in a Time of Crisis from Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching has suggestions for addressing the situation productively.
Build/maintain community among students
If you use interaction in your face-to-face class, use it in your virtual class! Students can use google docs or Canvas tools to collaborate; discussion boards or Webex breakout rooms can replace in-class discussion. For strategies, use the CELT Engage Students Online page.
Provide students with support and resources
Be Relational, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This work, Inclusion in the Online Learning Environment, is a derivative of Maintaining Equity and Inclusion in Virtual Learning Environments developed by San Diego State University Diversity and Innovation (retrieved on May 14, 2020) from https://diversity.sdsu.edu/resources/inclusive-pedagogy/be-relational.