10 Tips for Making Personal Connections With Students in Online Courses

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In the absence of face-to-face interactions, how can professors of online courses develop relationships with their students?

Implement these 10 tips to generate a sense of personal connection with your students:

  1. Post a short biography of yourself at the beginning of the course so that students have a sense of who you are. Talk about your background, education, interests, and include a photo.
  2. Create an introductory discussion board where each student can post something about themselves – their background, interests, job history, educational goals, personal goals, or anything else they’re like you and their peers to know. Respond to students’ posts, and encourage all students to respond to their peers as well.
  3. Better yet – request that all students create a quick personal moodboard. There are several free online moodboard creation tools such as Mural.ly and Glogster.
  4. Take note of students’ interests and incorporate them into class discussions. For example, if your are teaching a course about economics, and know that one of your students is the manager of his own small business, create a discussion thread in which you ask that student to write about his marketing techniques and let the other students comment with their thoughts and input.
  5. Instead of posting your weekly announcements as text, post video announcements recorded with a webcam. Being able to watch a video of their professor on screen helps students feel a stronger sense of connection.
  6. Respond to students’ posts on weekly discussion boards as much as possible so that students know you’re listening and interested in their thoughts.
  7. Create assignemnts that allow students to share their personal thoughts and experiences. In essay questions or discussion board threads, ask students questions such: When have you seen the concept of XYZ played out in your own life? Where have you seen this phenomenon occur in your own community?
  8. If you notice a particular student who is not completing his or her assignments, don’t be afraid to reach out and send them an email asking if everything’s okay or if you can help them in any way.
  9. Make a list of all your students and keep track of when you made personal contact with them. Jot down the date and method of contact – email, discussion board, phone call, etc. Keeping track of all your students will ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
  10. Consider splitting large classes into smaller classes to allow for more individualized attention and a sense of community.

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