University of Wisconsin–Madison

Improve Connecting with students online

8% of Instructors want to improve Connecting with students online

Show Empathy and Support! – The pandemic revealed the diversity of living situations and access to necessary learning resources that our students experience. Going forward, let’s continue to show flexibility, concern, and support for them as they make progress on their academics. (Dig Deeper on Empathy and Support)

Instructors can also structure opportunities to communicate into the course structure; predicable and organized opportunities for students to communicate with instructors and other students removes barriers for collaboration and communication. Start with a communication plan; how will you communicate with students consistently through the semester? Where will documents and lecture videos reside? Should students expect notifications as Canvas announcements or emails? Will assignments and quizzes be online and on their Canvas Calendar?

Communicating with students online between classes:

Actively Engaging Students  – This was a time of isolation and distancing, but we increased our efforts to connect with our students and to get them to interact with one another. As we go forward, let’s continue the collaborations, the peer reviews, the small group work, and providing feedback to our learners through active and applied learning experiences. (Dig Deeper on Active Learning)

Student-suggestions on how instructors can connect better with students:

  • Use Canvas announcements – regular and meaningful communication in the context of your course content, this is a good way to communicate to your students what is happening in the course.
  • Online office hours (in addition to in-person office hours) –
  • Email for communication of:
    • Weekly pre-class emails provided easy access to Zoom links 
    • Primary communicator of syllabus changes
    • Breakdown of weekly agenda

Participation and online student support spaces

Building a Virtual Classroom – The pandemic unseated us from the physical familiarity of the classroom. We responded by reworking our Canvas course sites with better organization, clearer file structures and naming, and by incorporating a Module 0 to help students know how to navigate the site and prepare for success before the semester begins. We learned how to use various video conferencing tools to interact with students, hold office hours, bring in guest speakers, and record class sessions. Even though we’ll be back in the classroom, let’s keep up the good practices with our online spaces. (Dig Deeper on Building the Virtual Classroom)

  • Points for participation rather than assignment completion
  • Student online spaces for supporting each other, groups
    • Piazza
    • Canvas discussion board
  • Weekly Canvas discussion forum

Make course materials available online in the context of the course

Creating Quality Content – Some of us built our own in-house studios and leveraged technologies to DIY. Others used Grainger facilities and got help from Teaching and Learning Support to build up our media production skills. We developed quality content in the form of narrated slides, videos, audio podcasts, and other online learning objects, and we made these materials easily accessible online. Let’s continue to hone those skills to benefit the learning that students do in and out of the classroom. (Dig Deeper on Creating Quality Content)

  • Use modules in Canvas to group and organize course content chronologically
  • Synchronous lectures, Powerpoints, handouts posted online to review later
  • Powerpoints also posted online (was not always done during in-person learning)
  • Higher use of discussion boards on canvas