Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Creating Community in Online Classes

Last week was Reading Week at Wesley Theological Seminary, a week when we had no classes and a chance both to catch up and to work on longer projects.  We had a dean visit one of our online virtual classes to remind us that we also needed to rest and to reconnect with those who love us.

It was a great week, but I was happy to return to classes.  My professors offer fascinating lectures, and I'm beginning to feel like I'm getting to know some of my classmates, albeit from a distance.  I'm in a small group that meets once a week via Zoom, and the professors of my virtual synchronous classes have us go into break out sessions each week.  Those are the obvious ways to build community.

There are more subtle ways to build community too.  Two weeks ago, I logged onto the Zoom session for the virtual synchronous class, and the teacher greeted me by name.  I smiled and waved.  As I got settled, I realized that she greeted each student by name.  At midterm, I realized that these names are becoming familiar to me.

I also thought about how welcoming it was to be greeted by name.  Zoom makes that easy, of course.  In real life, I would never be able to welcome over 20 students by name after only 6 weeks together.  Zoom lists our name.  But I was still impressed that our teacher would take the effort to greet us--and in such a larger sense, to be present for us.

In some ways, it's a small thing, to call us by name and to say, "Welcome."  But in some ways, it's a huge thing, in terms of the community the practice helps to create.

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