How to Build Strong Relationships with Your Virtual Students

The coronavirus has created a lot of uncertainties in the last six months. As feared, many schools have closed down completely to control the pandemic from spreading and have resorted to online teaching. Virtual learning comes with its share of challenges and limitations; most teachers and administrators are trying their best to make remote learning a success. However, are they able to really connect with and build relationships with their students?

Why Does a Strong Student-Teacher Relationship Matter?

Learning is more likely when teachers share a bond with their students. Relationships motivate learners and teachers. Having a strong emotional bond with the students allows teachers to guide them and develop their thirst for knowledge.

In a physical classroom, it’s easier for teachers to connect with their students as they are face-to-face. However, the situation is completely different in a remote learning environment where the teachers may feel alienated from their students.

A major challenge teachers face is maintaining discipline and motivation in the virtual classroom, keeping students interested in the course, and ensuring that they are grasping the concepts.

Connecting with virtual students can be a daunting task.

Here are the best ways to connect and create relationships from afar.

Make It Personal

Learning is not only about delivering your lecture and conducting exams. To really connect, make it fun and interactive and develop personal bonds with your students. Start by introducing yourself. Not in a formal way, but add fun to it by sharing little details like things you love, pets you have or books you have read.

Address each student with his or her name. This will create a strong bond with your students, and they will love to be a part of your class.

Technology can be used to connect and create bonds too. Put the favorite places you’ve visited or want to visit as backgrounds in your meeting apps and ask your students to guess where they are. To make it more exciting, request them to change their background also so that you can discuss the places they have visited or have in their bucket list.

Begin Class On A High Note

In a virtual setting it is even more vital to start class with a fun fact or some sort of sharing amongst the students. Occasionally surprise your students by starting the session in a unique way to catch their attention. Instead of directly starting with lecture, read an article, tell a short story or share fascinating trivia on your topic. Playing games, creating projects and solving puzzles are also a great was to emotionally bond with your students.

Check-In On Their Well-Being

Our students suffer most from virtual education if they are social or hands-on learners or for some reason or another it is not a great fit for them. They are thrown into isolation at home and forced to adapt to this ‘new normal’. Many young students are suffering from anxiety and depression. As a teacher, if you want to connect emotionally with the students, enquire about their wellbeing.

Begin classes with a small chat session and ask them how they are doing. Encourage them to share their feelings via private chat or message if they are having serious issues. Create a safe environment for students to share and reflect if needed. Try to make your students feel comfortable and safe. A virtual relationship is not the same as an in-person relationship, but you can still create a strong bond with your students online and it may be the difference between them having a good day or a lonely day.

Spice Up Your Teaching

Don’t always rely on books and presentations to impart knowledge. To promote emotional bonds with your students, ask them about their aspirations and goals, and share podcasts and motivational speeches that will inspire them to follow their dreams. Give them breaks from on-screen classes for reading, collaborating and creating. Afterwards, ask them to share the experience with their peers so that learning becomes a collective effort.

Developing virtual relationships with your students will provide emotional satisfaction and become a treasured experience.

Dennise Heckman has been teaching & coaching since 1996. She majored in illustration at the Savannah College of Art & Design, holds a Master of Education Degree