This is the first of three resources on building community remotely. Please refer to the other resources for information on building community during the first day of class and throughout the quarter.
Building community can present a challenge for classes that are conducted online. Use the week before classes start to allow students to introduce themselves to one another and to you. This time can be crucial for building relationships and ensuring that students know you are thinking carefully about how to organize an online class.
Reach out to students via email prior to the first class
- Send an Introductory Email – Introduce yourself and your background. Consider talking about how you and your family are coping with the Covid-19 outbreak. Openness on your part early on will help students feel like the classroom is inviting. Address concerns you have about the online format and make it clear that you want to work with the students to mitigate these. Send out Zoom links, and upload these to Canvas and encourage students to populate their calendar with the links. Populate Canvas with assignment due dates.
- Write a Letter to Your Class – This option is much more personal and vulnerable. If the professor’s goal during this time of crisis is to make students feel supported and valued, beginning the class with more vulnerability than usual can be a great way to build relationships.
- Possible angles and questions can include: A brief personal biography; How you are personally framing this new online class; How you and your family are doing during the COVID-19 shelter in place; Why you are excited to teach this class; Any questions or concerns you have about transitioning to online learning; Your hopes for this course
- Consider having students write letters back to you as their first assignment
Create a way for you or the TA to get to know students prior to the first class
- Student Survey – Distribute a survey to students to get to know their backgrounds, where they are in the world, potential internet problems they may have, and their concerns about online learning. Ask if there is anything students would like you to know about their home environments. Students may be living in crowded homes with families or their own children and may be concerned about interruptions during class. Knowing that you are aware and accepting of these circumstances will put them at ease. Example
- Schedule 1:1 Meetings – If time permits, consider asking students to schedule a 15-20 minute conversation via Zoom with you and/or your TA in order to get to know students on a more personal level. Ask students what they hope to get out of the class, what their concerns are with online learning, and any other questions that will facilitate relationship-building.
Encourage students to get to know one another prior to the first class
- Start a Canvas Discussion Board – Have students introduce themselves and provide a brief bio, answer questions, and respond to classmates.
- Cultural Basket – Ask students to take a photo of an object/artifact that has significant meaning to them and post it with an explanation. Example
- Small Group Intros – Group students into 2-3 and encourage them to reach out and get to know one another prior to class.