Building Connections in the Classroom in Fall 2022

The first day of class has passed – and your students are eager to learn. But how can we sustain that enthusiasm as the semester progresses? To revitalize the high-quality student experience for which the University of Guelph is known, consider how right now, there are students who may not have had many in-person interactions on campus since the pandemic began. One meaningful route: cultivate connections with and between your students. 

University of Toronto public policy researchers conducted a global survey of students that overwhelmingly showed that wherever they were from, they missed in-person learning the most. Overall, students crave the in-person “university experience” more than anything (Lee-Whiting & Bergeron, 2022). 

As an instructor, you have a unique opportunity to create a learning space that is a hub of connection and belonging, while also recognizing and acknowledging that students are returning with different levels of comfort or anxiety about being back. 

In a September 2022 Faculty Focus article, clinical psychologist and counsellor Stacy Roth emphasizes how kindness, compassion, and encouragement are crucial to cultivating connections. She outlines practical ways to put this into practice: 

  1. Ask students, “How are you doing?” Intentional check-ins gauge how students are doing before class starts. Periodically point them to practices and resources that help support their well-being throughout the semester. This increases student comfort in the classroom. Moreover, it enhances their curiosity about the course content. UofG’s Wellness Education and Promotion Centre is one such campus resource where students can focus on supporting each other. 
  2. Allow students to get to know each other. Encourage class engagement where students have opportunities to interact and exchange ideas around course content. Check out some strategies through the OTL’s web resources on active learning for in-class sessions or remote courses
  3. Engage students to find themselves in the process of learning. Consider creating assignments that allow students to reflect and connect on the course content in ways that will be meaningful to them individually and gives them a sense of belonging in your course. Such assignments may help reiterate learning objectives and attune students to the process of learning. Consider OTL’s resources on authentic and alternative assessments for in-person and remote learning. 
  4. Enable students to reflect and give feedback. Gathering mid-semester feedback about six weeks into the term gives students an opportunity to reflect on their learning process and share suggestions on where they think things are working well, and how they might see ways to better connect and belong in your course. This could help you identify some areas to strengthen connection. 
  5. Give students a chance to connect with you through your in-person or virtual office hours. Consider renaming office hours to something more welcoming, such as “student hours.” Remind students how these hours enhance their university experience, not only academically, but in building connections with you as their instructor. 

You may also find the advice offered in the OTL web resource Building Belongingness, Community, and Connection in Remote Courses easily transferable to in-person teaching.  

We would love to hear how your Fall 2022 in-person interactions are going! How have you been helping students to connect and belong? Where have things changed or remained similar in fostering connections compared to before the pandemic? What approaches have worked for you in the classroom in these early weeks? You can reach out to us at  



Lee-Whiting, B., & Bergeron, T. (2022, August 2). Students returning to campus want the ‘university experience’ missed during COVID-19. The Conversation.  

Roth, S. (2022, September 14). Cultivating Connection in a Course Setting. Faculty Focus. 

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