Photo of students at a computer

Connecting with students

Connecting – Foundational Principles

Chickering & Gamson’s first principle is to encourage contact between students and faculty, and the research supports this: “Frequent interaction with faculty members is more strongly related to satisfaction with college than any other type of involvement, or, indeed, any other student or institutional characteristic.” (Astin, 1985, pp. 133-151). The Peralta Equity Initiative calls this Connecting & Belonging, and is defined as “Course communications and activities [that] deepen connections among class participants, and encourage students to connect to your institution and the discipline more broadly.” Collaboration and social interaction can be powerful learning experiences because they encourage deeper processing and engage the ‘social brain.’

Presence – Interaction

Instructor presence and interaction with students is a key practice to keep students engaged in their learning, to foster an encouraging and supportive learning environment, and to guide students appropriately as they move through your course. Personal presence and interaction means learning their names, using proper pronouns, checking in frequently by using brief, anonymous course surveys, and other practices that show you are committed to their experience and learning. Some tips:

    • Record a brief introduction video explaining course policies, introducing yourself as the instructor, and providing information about how to be successful in the course. (How to pre-record a course video)
    • Utilize virtual or regular classroom environments to hold synchronous class activities and provide opportunities for the students to interact with the instructor at a distance by using a web conferencing tool. (structuring synchronous class sessions) 
    • Provide personal feedback quickly to students on assignments and assessments. Utilize rubrics for projects and papers to standardize grading and provide built-in feedback. (Giving good feedback) (guide to rubrics with examples and templates)
    • Hold office hours (virtual and in person), make opportunities for review sessions and study groups using a virtual classroom, and/or utilize the chat feature of your Learning Management System (LMS).
    • Provide opportunities for discussions using discussion activities and comment on student posts to show a “presence” in the course. You can do this by highlighting quality posts, asking thought-provoking questions (can you say more about that? What’s another way of viewing this? What assumptions are you making here?), and encouraging students to expand their thinking by applying course concepts and content. (how to structure effective online discussions)
    • Give work and study groups a discussion board or communication platform for their own use and “check-in” to see how students are progressing. 

    Contact – Communication 

    Face-to-Face Remote Tips & Tricks
    Course announcements

    Course announcements via Canvas Announcements. 

    ☐ Timetable or schedule

    ☐ Email

    ☐ Course announcement

    ☐ Dedicated document

    ☐ Live announcement 

    ☐ Forum post

    ☐ Other: ______________

    • Write your Canvas Announcement

    ahead of time and schedule them for a specific date and/or time.

    • Use multiple channels–e.g., Email, text reminders, course web site, during synchronous course meetings. 

    Verbal instructions on how to do something in class. 

    • Create video and/or written


    Include a clear purpose to why they have to do this in your instructions–i.e., explain why students are completing each task and show how each task links to the

    Objectives (TILT model). 

    I ask students to meet with me or email me their questions. 

    Keep doing this! Set up virtual office hours, meetings by appointment, or invite email questions. 

    Use Zoom, Google Meet, Canvas Conferences, or other virtual meetings platforms to hold meetings by appointment.

    If multiple students show up in the office hours, you can do a group Q&A session. Conversely, you can

    schedule 10 to 15 minute private appointments, use Zoom Waiting Room option for privacy, and/or have students sign

    up in advance on a Google Doc or Word doc online.


    The Learning Sciences: 10 Key Principles.” Digital Promise and The Institute for Applied Neuroscience. Web. Retrieved May 11, 2020. 

    Chickering, A. and Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. AAHE Bulletin, p3-7.

    Dixson, M. D., (2010). Creating effective student engagement in online courses: What do students find engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10:2, 1-13.

    Faculty Interaction” University of Florida, Center for Instructional Technology and Training. Web. Retrieved May 11, 2020. 

    Remote Teaching and Learning.” Peralta Community College Initiative. [Canvas Course, licensed under Creative Commons 4.0]. Web. Retrieved May 11, 2020.