Connection

Students and faculty have a shared understanding that connection and meaningful relationships are critical for learning. Many students and faculty agreed that the largest downside associated with online learning was the lack of connection.

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Personal relationships matter for learning.  [4.1]

“You cannot enter into a true learning community if you don’t know know a person's thoughts feelings, desires, etc. Students need to interact in an in-person community.” - Mendoza Faculty


“In-person classes (and interactions) allow for friendships, a sense of community to form, and collective intellectual engagement.” - Catholic Social Teaching Faculty


Photo: Classics

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Personal relationships with peers matter for learning. [4.1.1]

“Being able to casually talk to people before/during/after class makes me feel more engaged. I need to connect face-to-face.” - Psychology/Education, Schooling, and Society 


Photo: Anthropology/Political Science

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Strong student-faculty relationships matter for learning. [4.1.2]

“I need personal relationships with professors to get most out of class.” - Mechanical Engineering


“Personal relationship with professor is crucial.” - Biology/Pre-Health


Top Photo: Biology/Pre-Health

Bottom Photo: Innovation and Entrepreneurship Minor Faculty

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Personal relationships matter for mental health. [4.1.3]

“I am healthier when I can talk to face to face with people.” - Accounting


“I felt supported because the professor took mental health seriously.” - Finance/Theology


Photo: FTT

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Connection and feeling supported enhances the quality of learning, discussions, and collaboration. [4.2.1]

“Social interactions with classmates result in more fruitful conversations.” - Program of Liberal Studies


Photo: Anthropology/Environmental Sciences/Digital Marketing

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Connection and feeling supported matters for the experience of learning. [4.2.2]

“CORE NEED: To have peers that I feel comfortable approaching and working with. The personal aspect of being in a classroom is very important for the way that I learn best.” - Neuroscience


“In person classes allow for friendships and a sense of community to grow.” - Catholic Social Teaching Faculty 


Photo: Neuroscience and Behavior

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Feeling connected and supported in a class boosts motivation to engage. [4.2.3]

“Personal connection to peers/professor is very important to feel motivated and supported.”- Chemical Engineering


“Energy and social interaction motivate and engage me.” - PLS


“You try harder for those you have relationships with. I want students to think I cared enough about them to challenge them, and that I’m invested in them. I make those relationships better in-person.” - Catholic Social Teaching


Photo: Computer Science/Peace Studies

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Students need to know their classmates so that they can work and study together. [4.3]

“I need to know classmates and to be able to work with them.” - Neuroscience


“Collaborative environments foster accountability.” - Computer Science/Peace Studies


Photo: Biology/Pre-Health

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Online learning made it harder to get to know my classmates/students. [4.4]

“Online classes and interactions make it really hard to meet people. I felt isolation as a first year student.” - Neuroscience


“It’s hard to connect with individual students in a virtual setting because I  was always meeting with the teams on zoom.” - Design Thinking Faculty


Top Photo: Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering Faculty

Bottom Photo: Classics/PLS

 

Ideas for Fostering Connection

Below are some tangible ways to implement the above insights into your classroom structure. Ideas are compiled from the summit attendees, the summit committee, and research assistants.

Norms and Guiding Principles for Group Work 

Norm-setting for group-project work, not just discussions, because perfect practice makes perfect. Many students have established norms in their discussion-based classes, but few do the same norm-setting process prior to group projects and collaborative work. Rather than allowing students to repeatedly practice poor group-work habits, such as one person carrying the team, consider:​

  • Having students create a team contract in advance of the project that guides mutual expectations, rather than a lagging peer review at the end. 

  • Prompting teams to share their strengths. 

  • Encouraging teams to work together in real time for some deliverables, rather than dividing and conquering from the start. 

Norms and Guiding Principles for Discussions

A sense of belonging and safety are in a reciprocal relationship with meaningful connections. By supporting one, the other grows. Norm-setting allows students to identify a shared vision for what a productive discussion is and the values and actions that enable it. Norms can look like:

  • Participation guidelines, such as monitoring how often someone shares. 

  • Prompts to help frame perspectives, not disagreements, such as, "I thought of it this way, because______"

  • Norms to encourage mutual understanding, such as asking someone a follow-up question instead of accepting an argument 'at face value'. 

Ideas for Checking In With Students

  • “Describe your week in three words”--pass it in on a slip of paper, option to leave anonymous

  • Give a thumbs up, down, or sideways on how you’re doing. 

  • “What do your other classes look like this week?”

Quick Prompts for Personal Connection

  • “Weekend stories” as a five minute intro activity to lecture each week.

  • "What's going on on-campus this week? What do you think/feel about ____?"

  • Start each class with an intention or non-denominational prayer, ask for intentions