I teach a mostly asynchronous online course, with a few synchronous Zoom classes. I have about 30 students. Given the limited opportunity to get to know my students one-on-one in this course, I do a number of things to overcome the barrier.
- Introductions: One of the getting-started activities for the first week of the class includes introductions on course Canvas (course-management site) in response to a few questions I outline about their experience with and thoughts about cities, books they read set in cities, and a fun fact about them. (I also ask about why they think students plagiarize and the worst consequence of plagiarism. But this is a post for another time.)
2. Meet & Greet: A few weeks after the course begins, I and my teaching assistant meet each one of the students for a five minute Meet & Greet over two weeks, during Office Hours. This is a required activity for the course. We both ask questions about their course progress and feedback. But I also ask about things outside the course. During the Meet & Greet session last week, I found out that one of my students comes from a family of realtors and is interested in going into that industry. I also found out that another student is getting married in a few months. A third student we met last week is taking the course from another continent! All of them have interesting stories to tell. While brief, this meeting reduces the impersonal nature of mostly asynchronous course offerings; I do not want students to remain as names, email addresses, and ID numbers only. This week, we will be holding the second and last Meet & Greet session. I am excited to meet the remainder of the class.
It was last year when I was co-teaching the same course with another instructor that I came up with the idea of Meet & Greet. There were 56 students in the class, and it took three sessions of our Office Hours to meet them. During our mid-term survey, we asked if they attended the Meet & Greet and their thoughts about it. Below are some of their comments.
“Yes. I find that putting a face to the name connects you; both student and teacher seem more “real” and accessible. Thanks for setting that up!”
“Yes, I was glad to put a face to the names of Professor’s! Although it was quick, I found it made the class feel a little more “real” just to have a quick chat with you all!
“It was nice to talk one on one with the people who are teaching the course. It makes the professors seem more approachable.”
“I did and it was helpful as it allowed me to put name to face and being able to have the instructors put name to face was important to me too as it allowed us all to get to know each other briefly.”
“I attended a Meet and Greet at the beginning of February. It was nice to match faces to the professors for this course and they were able to clarify some loose-end questions I had at the beginning of the course regarding logistics.”
“I thought that the meet and greet was really helpful, it humanized the professors who can kind of become a faceless entity in some online classes.”
“Yes I did attend a meet and greet Zoom session. I enjoyed being able to talk to the professors one-on-one because it made the class seem more personal since everything is online.”
“Yes, I believe it was helpful to meet the instructors of this course. Not only did it allow me to understand them better, but it also let me introduce myself in a personable manner.”
“Yes, It was helpful to speak with the instructors to make a more personal connection.”
However, two students had a different opinion.
“Yes, I attended. The meeting was not helpful because it was too early in the course to understand what issues and questions I would have.”
“It wasn’t really helpful or necessary considering its an online class, I think people should be left the option of meeting via office hours instead of forced interactions.”
Based on the positive response of majority of the students , I decided to keep the activity this year. As the saying in Ge’ez goes ብዙሃን ይመዉኡ meaning, majority rules.
I am looking forward to meeting the remaining students tomorrow, and I am curious to read their thoughts in the mid-term survey!
In case you are curious about the course, you will find us here @FutureCities4. We tweet quite a bit.