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The Study Hall

#CanvasChat: Humanizing Your Online Course and Connecting with Online Students



If you follow me on Twitter or in the Canvas Community, you’ve probably seen some of my posts about the importance of connecting with your students. This is something I’m really passionate about, so when I was asked to host #CanvasChat, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about – humanizing your course and connecting with online students!

Humanizing your online course centers around instructor presence, knowing your students, and fully supporting them. In terms of course design, humanizing includes things like providing different assignment options and challenging students to go beyond their comfort zone. There’s so much we could have talked about, but I only had 30 minutes, so I narrowed the focus to connection and engagement with students.

First impressions are lasting ones, so I started the chat off by asking Instructors what they do to connect with students at the start of the semester or school year. It was amazing to see the different technologies and activities used. They ranged from online discussion forums to surveys, welcome videos, flipgrid, and even fingerprint poetry, just to name a few. The biggest takeaway though, was the importance of the “human” factor. It’s so important for students to feel like they are more than just a faceless name in a course.


We then moved on to how to encourage instructor-student / student-student interaction in your online courses. For this topic, the key seemed to be utilizing different types of tools and then really focusing on providing meaningful, timely, and personalized feedback. One of my favorite comments was how feedback should be a conversation and not just one-sided from the teacher.






As a continuation of best ways to interact with students, the chat moved on to favorite ways to keep students engaged. People immediately started posting about tools like Quizizz, Quizlet, Edpuzzle, Adobe Rush, Soundtrap, and even using GIF’s. The connection with all of these tools is that they all seem to help to make learning fun. Yes, FUN! This was further illustrated by a GIF battle that broke out in the middle of our #CanvasChat! I had my favorite GIF, but who do you think won?


To keep students going throughout the semester, it’s important to keep in contact with them and keep them connected with the course. This was the focus for our next question. The main tools discussed were announcements, “message students who” in the Canvas Gradebook, setting up communication check-in points, and the Canvas Teacher app! The main idea though was don’t wait for students to reach out to you – instead be proactive in contacting and keeping in touch with them.


In my own teaching journey, being more connected and engaged with my students has helped me be a better teacher and helped improve my online course design. Thus, to wrap up our chat, I really wanted to hear stories from other educators on how connecting with students has impacted them and their teaching. Some of most meaningful responses focused on being positive and cheering the students on, the importance of building relationships, and even the power of not teaching at all.



By the end of the chat, the tweets were still continuing and branching off into deeper conversations and the sharing of resources and information. It was inspiring to see what a group of passionate educators can accomplish in 30 minutes and I can’t wait to participate in next weeks chat!

See you next week!