Instructors Work to Create Connection in a Virtual Classroom

Ashley Saari is an instructor in the Communication Studies program and she shares how she has transitioned to varying forms of delivery. Her care for her students hasn’t faltered with the diminished face-to-face time. One of Rochester Community and Technical College’s core values is Fun. Ashley certainly fosters a pleasant, personable, and enjoyable environment in her classroom, virtual and otherwise.

How have you adapted your courses and/or teaching this fall?  

I am teaching 3 HyFlex (combination of in-person and online instruction) courses and 3 fully online public speaking courses. My HyFlex courses were split in half, so the smaller class size allowed for meaningful connections and conversation in the classroom.

One of my ‘signature moves’ as an instructor is to play music as students are entering the classroom. I gather a list of their favorite songs on the first day of class and play a different favorite each class meeting. During this time I ask students to share aloud the highlight (or lowlight) of their week since I’ve last seen them. It’s wonderful to connect with students before the class starts because I can use their examples and real-life scenarios to merge with the course content.

With limited or no face-to-face time in the classroom, what are you doing to connect with the students in your classes?

For my online courses I record short weekly videos and choose a different, upbeat, song to play the beginning of each “Weekly Game Plan” video. I take requests from my students for songs and give special shout-outs regarding their discussion posts or speech videos.

During my office time on Zoom I’ve asked students to introduce their pets, children, roommates, etc. if they choose because chances are once they’re on Zoom chit-chatting they will muster the courage to ask their question about an assignment or upcoming event in class.

We’re all human; we all want connection! (Cue the “Connection” song by OneRepublic!)

What advice do you have for students to get the most out of their experience/classes at RCTC?

Ask yourself what you TRULY want to get from the experience. Have a goal in mind. Then attack the goal each week. Get into a routine and set yourself up for success each week.

I advise students to reach out to their instructors because those connections make all the difference when we (as instructors) know more about our students and their goals. If your instructor has office hours (which they’re all required to have) then show up for a few minutes (whether that’s on campus or on Zoom) and say hello and ask a question about the course or assignment.

We’re here for our students and without them we wouldn’t have a job! I remind my students often: to ask for help does not mean you’re a failure; it just means you’re not in it alone!

Do you have a special moment with a student/students/class from this last semester that you would like to highlight?

Every single day is a special moment to me; whether that sounds corny or not I don’t care, because it’s my truth! 😊

I truly love my job and I am inspired by our students and their perseverance every single day. I often remind my students they have been through much harder and challenging situations in their life than to give a 5 minute speech in the Public Speaking course. I am honored when my students share their stories. They are much stronger than they give themselves credit for! One reason I work at RCTC is because of the diversity in our classes! I cannot pick just one special moment because each day is a chance to make connections and learn from one another.