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 virtual/online classroom, it is possible.

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. Be attentive, however, to the potential for exclusion and bias incidents in group communication channels.
  • 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 or by opening up video class sessions early and keeping them open after class is finished.
  • Set up drop-in Google Meet sessions periodically as office hours.
  • 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. You can use a whiteboarding tool like Google Jamboard (until Fall 2024) or Lucidspark (coming to Canvas in Summer 2024).

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

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