Given the anxiety and isolation that many students and instructors were feeling during this period, faculty often reported that it was necessary to intentionally invest in cultivating connections with and between students and to prioritize the well-being of everyone in the class.
- Practice vulnerability: Be vulnerable with students about learning the new medium and emphasize that you are all in this together. Ask students to be slightly vulnerable with each other at the start of the semester by kicking off a conversation where everyone shares an embarrassing story.
- Openly value your own well-being: You’ll likely need to do less in order for you and your students to make it through the semester without burning out. Try to identify the places where you can pull back to make time for other important aspects of your lives. Talking openly with your students about what you’re doing to care for yourself (i.e. “I won’t be available for office hours at that time because I’ll be out for a run.”) can also help students recognize steps that they can take to care for themselves.
- Meet with students at the beginning of the semester: Offer “Meet the Professor” slots for 15 minutes at the beginning of the semester to meet as many students one-on-one or in small groups as you can, either in-person (outside) or on Zoom.
- Project steadiness and hope: As much as possible, serve as a steady, positive, hopeful presence to students.
- Peer review: Structure opportunities for students to regularly engage in peer review, preferably students who are working together in stable small groups over the course of the semester.
- Simplify your feedback or grading load: Use a check scale, grade things for completion rather than accuracy, create time in class when students can receive feedback (polls, group work in breakout rooms or Google Docs, etc.), avail of Speedgrader and automatic grading features in Canvas Quizzes.
- Help students find what they need: Create an “I Need . . .” Canvas course module that consists of pages that provide students with information about how to get help with the course or access resources at the university (e.g. “I need a rec letter” with information about what you need to write a strong recommendation letter, or “I need someone to talk to” with information about campus, local, and national mental health resources, etc.).
In-Person: Full Class
- Structure opportunities for sharing: Create intentional opportunities for students to share with one another. For instance, one instructor in a Masters program asked students to share responses to the question “what’s behind your mask?” in a jamboard on the first day of class to acknowledge the literal and metaphorical context.
- Regular check-ins: Devote time to the beginning of every class to ask students how they are doing. Let that portion of class take time (10 mins.+ if needed)
- Get students moving: Send students out on socially distanced walks for a set period of time to discuss a text passage or discussion question.
In-Person: Alternating Groups
- Virtual introductions: Have students post short introductions to Canvas before the class starts. These can be text or video contributions where students share an answer to one light personal question (favorite music, hobby, best book you’ve ever read, etc.)
- Consistent small groups: Have students in consistent small groups and have them asynchronously interact with those groups during the days when they are not in the classroom. Give them something to work on that requires real collaboration (like submitting a video solution to a case study) to help them bond.
- Asynchronous interaction across groups: Set up asynchronous assignments (discussion boards, Perusall annotations, etc.) where students can learn with their peers from the other group.
- Routine breakout room introductions: Start each session by putting people into breakout rooms of 2-3 for a few minutes and ask them to introduce themselves, say hi and check in with each other so that students can meet new people and feel known in the class
- Chat check-in: At the beginning of class, ask everyone to type one word to describe their week into the chat. Then do a countdown and ask everyone to press “Enter” and send their message at the same time.
- Image check-in: Ask students to bring a picture to the class session that represents how they are feeling.
- Contemplative practice: If you have your own practice, some instructors have found students have really responded to grounding/mindfulness exercises.
- Limit meeting size: Split larger classes into more than one group and meet with each group once over the course of the week to cover the material for that week. This enables everyone to see each other on one Zoom screen.
- Support socializing: Create optional breakout rooms at the end of class sessions that students can join to socialize for a little bit
- Reduce screensharing so that everyone can see each other as much as possible.
- Build short breaks into class sessions to limit Zoom fatigue.
- Embrace personal reflection and storytelling: Invite students to reflect on the content of the course in their personal experiences and provide opportunities for students to share with one another through storytelling and discussion groups. One faculty member had students interview an older family member about what music meant to them when they were young and had a call session where students shared about the conversation.
- Group projects: Regularly use breakout rooms to enable students to collaborate on group projects during class time.
- Build in breaks, or weeks without due dates, when students can take a step back and regroup.
- Group projects: Have students work on group projects to get to know each other and engage in some synchronous discussions.