Creating meaningful connections with your professors during remote learning can be challenging. Zoom fatigue may even discourage you from keeping up with friends, so scheduling a video call with a faculty member might be the last thing on your mind. However, connecting with faculty and mentors is crucial during this season.
According to Inside Higher Ed, regular connection with faculty provides support, positive challenge and long-term impact on student success during and beyond college. It may take some creativity, but there are other ways to make genuine and life-giving connections both on and offline. Biola students and faculty recently shared ways they engaged with one another during the Fall 2020 remote semester.
Assistant Professor of Theatre Zachary Bortot shares examples of engaging with students in his remote classes.
“I'm the advisor for our Theatre Honor Society, Alpha Psi Omega (APO), so we have weekly meetings for members, which allows me to connect with the community there,” said Bortot. “We have a mentorship program where we connect juniors and seniors with our first-year students. We also schedule monthly community events – we just had one a week ago where we played games and had worship over Zoom. I take an active part in those events so that students can connect with me in a format that is not directly related to academic achievement.”
Since theatre productions were cancelled for the fall semester, Bortot turned theatre production lab courses into virtual one-on-one research and coaching.
“I met with students one-on-one to work on monologues, scenes and professional portfolios. This allowed us to touch base on life, work and school work in a more relaxed setting,” said Bortot.
Senior theatre student Lydia Safford shared how she connected with faculty during remote learning in Fall 2020.
“I try to get to my Zoom classes early, and during that time I am able to catch up with my professors,” said Safford. “Additionally, theatre community events with Alpha Psi Omega provide a space outside of class to connect with faculty in addition to other students. I remind myself that this semester is hard for both faculty as well as students, and that makes me feel less alone. We're all doing our best and are in this together.“
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Hyuna Lee has implemented creative ways to stay connected with students both online and offline. Lee connected with students through her Instagram in Fall 2020, allowing her to share both academic and personal content. She hopes to stay connected to her alumni through these mediums as well as holding BOHPA-sponsored health career networking events.
Senior human biology student Sarah Morgan emphasized the importance of making an effort to connect with faculty.
“The times that I have spent interacting one-on-one with Biola faculty, either in person or on Zoom, have helped me to remember that there is a large network of people all experiencing some degree of difficulty with online learning,” said Morgan. “I have also had many conversations with professors about how much they miss seeing students' faces and hearing their voices. Even though it is sometimes uncomfortable for me to make an effort to interact with professors, knowing that they pour so much of themselves into their classes and desire to see their students thrive makes me want to show them how much we really do appreciate them.“
The Importance of Office Hours
While the time set aside for students to connect with professors during office hours can be used to discuss assignments and other academic questions, Assistant Professor of New Testament Darian Lockett often uses office hours to check in with how students are doing personally and discuss the bigger questions students have.
“I have had several quality conversations with students...after Zoom class and for Zoom office hours,” said Lockett. “They range from questions stemming from lectures to life and faith issues. I've even been talking to one student who is considering leaving the Christian faith.”
For Lockett, office hours about class often lead to conversations about questions students are currently wrestling with.
“I’ve also had conversations about the election and its impact on the Christian life and conversation about evangelism and Mormons,” said Lockett. “I had a great conversation with another student about the gospel and how the Christian life is not just believing but also experiencing a transformed life.”
Students of all majors have found office hours during remote learning to be essential to their Biola experience. Dugan Studebaker, senior Cinema and Media Arts student, shared how time in office hours positively impacted their experience.
“I stayed after class and told one of my professors what wasn't working for me in class, said Studebaker. “She actually changed things because of it, and the class has been better. So I would say it is a good thing to take advantage of.”
If you are looking to connect with students and faculty in your major, consider joining an academic or career club or asking your department about upcoming events or mentorship programs.
If you are looking for a deeper connection with faculty, start by reaching out and scheduling office hours with a professor. If you are not sure what to talk about, here are five ways to get started.