The sense of being connected to each other and to the course team is the social ‘glue’ which helps keep students engaged with their learning. It is more challenging to create the feeling of community in online environments, and students have told us that they are struggling to make friends and develop connections. However, feeling included and a sense of belonging to their cohort and other groups will be integral to their learning and wider support networks.
The following two simple activities replicate some of the usual informal social spaces that students would experience if they were on campus. They also encourage students to make positive connections to the course team and each other in an informal low stakes environment.
- Introduce weekly informal course level Teams events, such as ‘Community Cafes’ – break down large groups into smaller breakout channels, groups of 4 – 6 people is comfortable number for informal conversation.
- Add, or set aside, 10 minutes at the end of Teams sessions and encourage students to use the opportunity to ask questions, say hi, or chat informally with staff and/or each other.
Further ideas and resources:
These informal, social connections will help students build confidence, and hopefully promote their engagement in the more formal live Teams sessions. Student feedback has been generally very positive about the use of Teams. However, a key issue many staff have experienced has been getting students to participate when they are in Teams sessions. This guidance on increasing engagement in Teams helps you reflect on the issues surrounding turning cameras on, and the following ideas and resources suggest the ‘baby-steps’ towards students signalling their presence and interacting. There is a student resource about communicating in online classes which you could make students aware of in PAT tutorials or within My Studies.
- Create activities where students start by working in pairs (in their own chat) to gain confidence in talking to one other person, and turning on cameras. Then ask the pairs to form small groups, then end up in the whole group Teams session. This will help develop confidence, increase social networks, and be a manageable interactive experience at a gradually increasing scale.
- Creating quick quizzes or embedding quizzes in Teams using Forms.
- Using the Whiteboard tool in Teams, including for collaborative work.
- Students working collaboratively on a shared document in Teams.
- Student Group Work in Teams is key, as is the technical guidance for setting up channels or break out rooms in Teams. In this blog post Imran Rafiq and Hamid Isfahany talk about their experiences of using Teams for group work and to promote student interaction.
- For more tips on working in Teams, see this site’s FAQs.
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