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Care for Students and Their Learning

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Now more than ever, students need to feel that their instructors care about their well being and academic success.

Care for Students and Their Learning 

Building a sense of community and fostering the individual’s contribution to that community is an essential ingredient of effective (online) teaching. It is the old adage: I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care. Students want to know: 

Who Are You? 

Students are looking to see if you’re approachable, relatable, and able to teach them what they need to know. In an online setting, you need to make a more intentional effort than you would in a typical classroom to let students get to know you.  

Example Practices: 

  • Create a short introductory video. Show and tell who you are, including a few details about your background and family. Humanize yourself in a way that’s comfortable to you. 
  • Personalize each unit. Find ways to make lessons and lectures more compelling because they reflect your interests and skills. 
  • Model your thinking. Throughout the course, show—don’t simply tell—how you process a question or problem. 

Who Am I to You? 

Do you care about me and my learning? Again, in the classroom students will be able to sense your caring tacitly by your behavior and interaction. In an online teaching environment, however, you will need to be more explicit in your efforts to communicate. 

Example Practices: 

  • Learn students’ names. Refer to students by name at every opportunity. 
  • Invite students to create introductory videos. Whether your class is large or small, ask students to create one-minute videos introducing themselves to you. Briefly acknowledge each effort, and students will better sense that you sincerely care about them. 
  • Acknowledge student contributions. Comment on efforts large and small. Students may hesitate to participate, especially in an online environment. Encourage their efforts by offering at least a simple acknowledgment or statement of thanks. 
  • Make opportunities accessible. Ensure that students have ready access to resources that will support their learning. Invite creative approaches to assignments insofar as possible. 

Who Are We, as Students, to Each Other? 

In a classroom, students interact and become acquainted. This is not as easily done online, of course; thus, students can feel disconnected and on their own. The sense of isolation students experience is perhaps the greatest challenge presented by online learning even in the live remote modality. As you make an effort to carefully organize your course, demonstrate its relevance to your students, and align evaluation and assessment with course content, you further show your care for students and their learning. 

Example Practices: 

  • Promote group discussions. Resist the temptation to lecture throughout a class session by having students break into small groups so that everyone has a chance to participate. 
  • Promote group projects. Likewise, incorporate group as well as individual assignments in your course design. 
  • Create study groups. Working with others on assignments can help students feel connected, less isolated, in their study. 

Tools to Help You: 

  • Connecting with Students through Zoom 
  • Using Digital Dialog to Create Community 
  • [Insert tools or tutorials here] 

Additional Resources: