Getting to Know You...
This week's prompt is:
How do you get to know your students and build community when you can't meet them physically?
I have been teaching online far before the pandemic; I was and am still teaching online asynchronous courses.
To build community, I require heavy participation in almost weekly discussion boards (at least in my non-developmental classes). The number of times that I require the students to comment on the boards each week (at least 8 times) helps them to get to know each other better. They start out with a discussion that is about them, personally and as students, and I ask that they share a photo. I share photos of myself and of my family and I try to participate in the discussion boards at least through the first few weeks of the semester.
I used to avoid peer-reviewing, but have moved back to doing it to build trust in the classroom. Sharing work with other students is vulnerable and they tend to take care of each other's work, which also builds the classroom community.
I am also sure to require enough work that the students participate in class regularly. The more time they spend in the class physically, engaging with the materials, the more they are able to see themselves as part of the community in that class.
I think that I am lucky in that I am in a discipline that lends itself well to creating community. Whenever I take a creative writing class, as a student, I feel pretty connected to the members of the class, even though we are online. This is because we are sharing our work with one another. There isn't the opportunity to do that in every class.