When Purnima transitioned to online teaching, like other teachers, she had to build in several changes. ‘Very soon I realised that successful learning is not only dependent on how well you plan your lessons, make effective presentations or use interactive online tools, but also on the positive rapport you create with and among your students. A good rapport is the first step towards creating a positive learning environment and hence is essential for effective teaching and learning.’ Purnima revisits the beginning of her online teaching journey and how she found her ways to creating a strong rapport in online classes.
‘The COVID 19 situation and the shift in teaching format have been detrimental to students’ emotional health and now, more than ever, they need a strong support system.’ Purnima asserts ‘Recommendation 12 of NEP 2020 emphasises providing support to students, including for their psycho-social wellbeing, which can only be achieved by building a strong rapport with them.’
Purnima recalls how she missed the rapport she used to have with her students in a physical classroom. ‘I knew rapport was the key to providing a safe, friendly, and non-threatening learning atmosphere, and therefore I started reading on the topic, spoke to my colleagues, discussed on teacher forums, and realised that many of the strategies we use to engage with students in physical classrooms can be transitioned to the digital classroom.’
‘Little things go a long way. Before starting my class, I always make sure I’m seated in a well-lit room, using the right mic and speakers, and the webcam is at my eye level’, she emphasises the importance of getting the basics right.’
Purnima’s students are adults from different parts of the world, and she notes how it is imperative for her to plan lessons that ensure participation from everyone and facilitate learning from each other’s experiences and cultures.
‘While teaching, I look calm and relaxed, my students know that I’ve set this time exclusively for them. I smile and sound enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious, it soon catches up with my students’, Purnima shares her strategies for creating rapport in an online environment. ‘Every day, I start with different ‘small talk’. When we talk about ourselves, we come across as more approachable. I share my experiences, ask about theirs. I am genuinely curious about their well-being and show it. I think we should never hesitate to ask “How are you today?” These moments humanize you and assure students that in the digital classroom, you are their human connection, a connection that cares!’
‘It’s equally important to help students build a healthy bond with their peers. When students are encouraged to solve problems and build understanding as part of a team, the classroom becomes a more respectful and productive place.’
Purnima now collaborates with other teachers to create interactive online activities that foster relationship-building in digital classrooms.