8 more ideas for making students feel at home

by | 26 Jul, 2017 | 3 comments

Here are some more of our top ideas for creating a sense of belonging for students - in class on online.

Our team at the learning.futures Academic Hub  supports UTS academics to design great learning experiences using technology. Many of us are also students, recent students or teaching at UTS. Following up from our previous post, our team share more of their top ideas for helping students get that feeling of being at home.

Bilquis Ghani, Learning Technologist and tutor in UTS School of communication

One idea for making students feel welcome:
The first time they meet in class, I always get all the students to stand up and put themselves in alphabetical order of their first name. It gets everyone asking each other’s names and it’s always very entertaining to have everyone trying to fit in a row around the class. We then go through and answer the question: ‘You’re at a family BBQ, what is the one topic that makes you get on your soapbox and voice your opinion?’ Everyone loves talking about things they’re passionate about!

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
My eyeliner and warm socks.

Matilda Fay, Academic Video Support Officer

One idea for making students feel welcome:
When there’s a lot of big personalities in the class it’s easy to feel like the tutor only knows the loud ones. As a student I loved it when an academic deliberately learned the names of those who were quiet or seemingly disinterested. Not everyone shows their interest in the same way and it feels good when the academic takes that first step by displaying an interest in you! (Special mention here must go to Kais Al-Momani, once my first year tutor and now my colleague. He knew who we all were and there was no fooling him for a second if we hadn’t done the readings!)

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
A blueberry bagel with cream cheese (thanks Brainwave cafe!)

Detlev Kerkovius, Learning Technologist (Faculty of Engineering and IT)

One idea for making students feel welcome:
Creating a survival guide for your subject can be a helpful tool to reduce confusion, stress and email bombardment. By providing a document that simply summarises the tools used the subject, shows where to find them, and explains what each tool will be used for, can give the students a more secure footing in your subject.

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
Music and my own little corner to dump stuff.

Rhiannon Hall, Learning and Teaching Digital Content Officer

One idea for making students feel welcome:
Give students an opportunity at the beginning of the subject to talk about their specific research interests. They may meet other students who they could collaborate with, and it can help to understand what they might expect or wish to get out of your subject.

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
A quiet space, a cup of tea, and a stack of books.

Amanda Sampol, Learning Technologies Support Officer and current student

One idea for making students feel welcome:
Introduce team building activities as ongoing initiatives in the classroom. This could be done through a combination of both face to face or digital activities. Students could form teams in their first classes and connect with one another to identify their key strengths. They could then brainstorm on an online platform (Slack, discussion boards, Facebook etc.) to hit certain deliverables for their team building task and present them back to the class. Assisting students to build these relationships/support networks online/offline at an early stage through online collaboration could help students to feel more welcome.

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
Reading non-fiction books, a chai latte and smashed avo on toast with persian fetta topped with chilli flakes 😉

Ollie Coady, Learning Technologist (Science)

One idea for making students feel welcome:
Ask students to introduce themselves in an online discussion forum – what degree they are doing, what they’re looking forward to getting out of the subject, and where they want to be in 5 years.

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
A solid thunderstorm. Whenever I experience one, it takes me back to when I was a child at home.

Andrew Francois, Learning Technologist (DAB)

Emoticon cushion

Image by Andrew Francois

One idea for making students feel welcome:
Students could submit selfies to a social media channel that you plan to use in your subject. Ask for information to be included with the selfie, such as the student’s name, prior experience and what they want to get out of the subject. Throw in a silly question to make the process more fun: “If you were an animal, what would you be?” This is a vehicle for early socialisation and group formation. It reduces the awkwardness of classroom introductions and is an opportunity for more considered responses. Share a summary of the anonymised results in the first class and have a laugh about the range of ‘animals’ in attendance. The academic gains early insights into the cohort and the selfies help with matching names to faces. When you engage a student by name in class it signals a personal interest in that student’s learning.

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
Photos and videos of family on my mobile devices transport me home in an instant, wherever I am. The goofy ones that make you guffaw uncontrollably in the ‘quiet carriage’ on the train are best.

Kais Al-Momani, Learning Technologist and casual academic in FASS

One idea for making students feel welcome:
Ask students to introduce themselves to the whole class, and then tell class your most embarrassing moment of your life that makes you special. Students love to share stories.

One thing that always makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world:
Listening to my favourite Arabic songs with a cup of Arabic coffee.

For more ideas, check the ‘Bronze Silver Gold’ guide to designing welcome activities as part of Week 1. For help with creating these types of activities, drop in to see us at the learning.futures Academic Hub.

3 Comments

  1. Jane Hunter

    This is such a lovely set of ideas – enjoyed reading it.

    Reply
    • Lucy Arthur

      Thanks so much Jane!

      Reply
  2. Andrew Francois

    I really like this student focussed approach which also doubles a very welcoming and inclusive message to students.
    —–
    From
    https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/beginning-the-school-year-its-about-the-learners-not-the-content/

    Beginning class with a focus on connections rather than content gives learners the following messages:

    • You are the focus of the class not me.
    • You are important as a learner in this class.
    • You will be expected to engage in the learning activities during class time.
    • You will be an active learner.
    • You will be expected to do collaborative learning during the class time.
    • I, as the class facilitator, will be just that – a facilitator. I will introduce the learning activities, but you will be responsible for the actual learning.
    • I will get to know you as a learner and try to help you find learning activities that are of interest to you.

    Reply

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