“Soft starts” to your synchronous meetings – i.e. opening the meeting about ten minutes before class officially begins – encourage community in a number of ways:
- They can be used to work out tech problems before class starts so that students can participate fully.
- They can be used to “warm up” the class by encouraging students to comment in the chat about an interesting photo, question, or other graphic that you share on your screen.
- They can be used to create a welcoming atmosphere by playing fun music (Zoom has a specific function for sharing audio).
To bring the “soft start” time to an end and segue to the regular class meeting, you can spend a few minutes doing some sort of check-in to see how everyone is doing. Reaching out to students with warmth and humanity is more important these days than ever, and it is an essential ingredient in creating community in a flex-hybrid course.
The start of each class might also be a great time for a little “how to be successful this week” pep talk. Let students know what you expect in the assignments they’re doing. Explain some common mistakes and provide clear examples of what success might look like.
Staying in contact with students via Announcements on Canvas was, I believe, pivotal to the overall success and continued student engagement with course work, as was a little TLC ‘pep talk’ at the beginning of each class session. This personalised the student experience and created a relaxed atmosphere in what was, undoubtedly, a challenging time for everyone.Caroline Elbay
I used my synchronous meetings primarily to re-connect and re-create at each meeting our shared learning community. Major concept development and content learning was mostly left to the asynchronous discussion posts, individual or group tasks. What that means is that I tried to make our time online in zoom or google hangout meeting be more about human connection than content.John Stroup