Working with Students

Gracie Bickel:I have created a lot of videos. I think it helps with building the students relationship with me, but it lacks in building my relationship with the students. They get to hear my voice, but I don't get to hear theirs. Since we only have one discussion, I feel that this affects the relationship. I have added my own [optional] discussion boards in the past and it went very well. I got a lot of responses and it was pretty cool…”


Don Brasier: “Every time I respond to an email, I include something positive and encouraging. I also try to mention something about their grade so that the student knows that I am aware of them on a personal level and that I know how they are performing.”


Timothy Crawford: “At one time or another most of the students in each class will email me a question or concern during the course… It's tempting to just simply answer the question briefly and move on, but if I can add a little to that, it makes a big difference.  I try and do little things like trying to relate to their situation or express concern for them…”


Jared Grimmer: “Emailing the struggling students really does help make a connection. I know that I've had students in the past that were on the verge of dropping, but decided to stick with it. One of the things I try to remind all of my students is that they, for whatever reasons, felt inspired to take the pathway classes. The Lord is definitely aware of them and wants them to be successful.


Kristi Grooms: “I just try to ask questions wherever I get the chance.  It often is in the feedback, but sometimes in e-mail or text or the discussion board.  For example, last semester I had a student miss a Gathering because her daughter was getting married and she had traveled to Salt Lake to help her dress shop.  I kind of really love weddings, so I asked how things were going every now and then and she even sent me pictures of her daughter in her wedding dress.  I just try to remember things about each person and follow up with them.  It's not a perfect system, but it works well to make a strong connection with a few of the people.”


Tinia Hansen: “I give my students my cell phone number so they can text me a message or make a phone call.  At first I hesitated giving out my number; a little worried about getting 90 students texting or calling me.  But it didn't happen.”


Celeste Knight: “I try to let my students know that although I am their instructor I am a real person too.  I try to have a sense of humor and be personal rather than cold and over-professional (if that is a real thing).  Connecting with my students and taking an interest in their lives outside of math has helped me gain my students' trust and allows students to feel comfortable coming to me with a problem.  I took the opportunity this week to email each struggling student or student who was missing at least 2 assignments.  I had an overwhelmingly positive response from those I emailed.”


Scott Walker: “I have called a few of my struggling students this semester. I have found that as soon as I contact them and they hear my voice they are much more likely to contact me for assistance in the future.”



And their fearless TGL…


Trent Mikesell: “I try to share pictures of my family from time to time and just talk to them about the things that are going on in my real life.  I always get a lot of positive feedback when I do that.  I also think it's very important to respond to student emails and questions as quickly as possible.  I think that's a very important way to demonstrate your reliability and goes a long way towards connecting with students and developing a relationship with them.”

“One thing that I started doing a few semesters ago that really helps is making a PowerPoint with student pictures and biographical information.  Once a week, I go through the PowerPoint.  It helps me learn names as well as remember some facts about students.  I do it in PowerPoint because it's really easy to upload pictures into PowerPoint…I just download the pictures directly from I-Learn.  I use PowerPoint because it has a "create photo album" function, so if I've saved the pictures with the filename of the student, then it puts them in and captions them automatically.  It saves me time.”

Great stuff here, right?! You can find MORE of the ideas they shared by CLICKING HERE

OPTIONAL: Will YOU share with us some of your best practices for developing relationships with students? 

I was moved by President Gilbert's message to online instructors today when he mentioned that when our online students feel OUR love for them, they feel the love of the LORD, which motivates them to improve themselves. Wow.

If you have a couple minutes, share with us your best tip so we can all work a little smarter (not necessarily harder) to develop meaningful relationships with our students.

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  • Yes, sometimes we lose the art of storytelling in an online class. But we naturally do it so well in an online class.  So the suggestions about sharing things from our 'real lives' is so valuable in an online class.  Great posts here!

  • So many great suggestions and ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  • You all probably do this already, but I believe students really appreciate when we are specific (to them) in our feed back.  So a short quote from their own work--back to them-- I think goes a long way to tell them we care and that we are paying attention. 

  • What a great collection of inspiring ideas!  Thanks for sharing and for being a terrific example for all of us!

  • Loved this, Bonnie -- and thanks to this group for the great ideas! I've taken notes. 

    Two things that come to mind that I think make a difference for me in developing relationships with students each semester are: 

    1. Keeping a spreadsheet of my interactions with them. I record some info about them from our introductory week so that I can follow up on that during the semester and then I track how often I respond to them on discussion boards, times I've given video/audio feedback, and times that I've emailed them personally. I try to keep it simple (or I've found I don't use it), but it helps me make sure no one falls through the cracks. 

    2. Giving video feedback on one major assignment at least once a semester. Students respond to this more than anything else I've done as far as feedback goes. It takes more time (about twice as long as normal grading for me), but is worth it at least once a semester. 

    Anyway, that's my response to your questions -- thanks again to the members of this group for their examples! 

    • Thanks for sharing these ideas James. Cool that you use the info you have recorded about each student in your communication with them later on. Have you ever tried out video emails? Maybe that would contradict your "keep it simple" tip. I was at a meeting last semester where an instructor mentioned having it on his daily task list to email one student a day. I loved that idea. Just a quick thing to check off your list.. That would help keep me from trying to do it all in one sitting (which just leads me to putting it off).

      I agree that making videos can take more time with the feedback depending on the assignment. If it is an assignment that requires a lot of corrective feedback, then sometimes the "showing" goes faster than "telling". Many English TGL have mentioned it really helps speed things up for them. Torri Black gave some great advice on video feedback rules HERE. I have found jing to be faster if I am making a video for each student on an assignment, but will use byu-idaho ( if i am making a class-wide video (for bandwidth reasons). 

    • I started doing more video feedback in the last few semesters, and the students really seem to enjoy it.  My next step is to do the video feedback with my face in the corner so they can see my face and hear my voice.  I think that will make even more of a connection.  

      • That is an awesome goal Trent! I also want to add in a web-cam video (but only to my weekly overviews). I might wait to remake these until winter since we have the new system then and everything will look different. Of course, then I will have to wear makeup and look professional while I am working... ok the students are worth it.

  • Wonderful ideas Pathway-21!  Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts and I can't wait to apply some of those principles to improve my relationships with my students.

  • Thanks for these great ideas, Pathway 21!  I love Trent's idea of the picture PowerPoint.

    In response to Bonnie's question, there are two main things I've been trying to work on in developing my relationship with students lately:

    1. Compassion. When responding to emails with requests to excuse a Gathering (Pathway) or extend a due date, I try to think hard about the student, their situation, their life, their challenges.  This makes it easier for me to follow the Spirit and respond with compassion.  Students appreciate compassion (we all do) in times of trial and hardship.

    2. Humor.  I gotta be me.  I find there are a few students each semester whose funny bone tickles mine, and since I love good humor, I do what I can to encourage them.  These class clowns tend to insert their course-related puns and jokes on the discussion boards. Where possible I try to pave the way for this by infusing my own posts with a bit of content-related humor.  For example, last week students were posting their ideas for the upcoming persuasive essay topics.  One student wants to write about medicinal marijuana.  I replied with the title of "Weed Killer" for my post.  A few students jumped right on board with this.  Subsequent reply titles included: "The State is Going to Pot" and "Munchies? I Offer Some Food for Thought."  While not all students will appreciate or engage in the humorous banter, I like to think that all of them see the human side of me more because of this.

    Each instructor has something unique, a personal strength that will speak to some of the students.  What's your unique teacher quality? (I'm in favor of building on strengths!)

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