Meaningful interactions are essential when utilizing a face-to-face teaching format, but are even more vital in an online teaching model.
As educators, we must understand our students' strengths and weaknesses, their background, and specific learning style. We have a responsibility to be empathetic and sympathetic to their plight for the duration of instruction and learning.
If we are not careful, the online environment can leave students feeling secluded and isolated. Finding a common interest can be a major ice breaker that can aid in forming positive relationships, critical to the online learning setting.
During my initial conversations with students, some of the first questions asked are probing in hopes to find common interests, such as sports, shopping, cooking, etc. Allowing the student to know that you are not just a moderator, but someone who can join conversations that do not revolve around work submitted, is vital to building rapport. Having a common interest can undoubtedly assist when difficult moments happen. A positive conversation about a non-academic topic can often turn a negative into a positive and can typically encourage a student to get back on track. Many times, students have expressed their gratitude for the conversation or laugh. They appreciated the mild distraction and it proved to be necesary to get their focus redirected on continuing their work.
Dr. Richard Dinneen, Professor Faculty Senate Secretary
School of Education