One of the best aspects of in-person teaching is that it allows for unplanned informal discussions before, during, and after class. These discussions are vital for creating and maintaining both strong and weak social ties among students and faculty.
While such conversations are harder to recreate in a flex-hybrid classroom, it is possible. Again, the (sort of) good news about flex-hybrid teaching is that this year, students will likely be required to leave their physical classrooms and exit the building immediately after class concludes, which means that casual conversations might actually be easier to have before and after flex-hybrid or fully remote synchronous class sessions.
Here are some ways you can invite and support those casual, invaluable discussions.
- Students will naturally set up their own Google Docs and other communication channels for group work. Except for ensuring that all group members have access to everything, allow group members to manage their private group space and stay out of it.
- Provide a virtual “student lounge” as a place for social and off-topic exchanges. This can be done using the “chat” feature during Zoom/Meet class sessions, and by opening up video class sessions early and keeping them open after class is finished. One Champlain faculty member who did this in Spring 2020 reported that some students stayed on after class for up to an hour.
- Set up drop-in Google Meet sessions periodically as office hours – or even let students know that you won’t be at those sessions and that they can get together to talk about anything they want!
- Set up an open discussion forum in Canvas that can be used at any time throughout the semester to talk about anything students want to discuss.
Set up a completely separate, fun platform for students to connect to share experiences and ideas that are completely unrelated to the class.
One of the really fun discoveries was playing around as a group with Jamboard.* The idea is to provide a shared creative space to upload images and notes to one another in real time. One could use it for more serious content related learning but I mostly used it to share playfully about our pandemic experiences.John Stroup
* Jamboard is Google’s virtual whiteboard. You can use Jamboard by downloading a Google Chrome extension. Jamboard integration with Google Meet is forthcoming.