Building genuine, personal and professional relationships with your professors is a sure way to enhance your college experience. However, online classes have made education extremely impersonal, and students often lose sight of who is on the other side of the screen.
In the current virtual environment, student engagement with UT professors is of the utmost importance. In order to foster this crucial interaction, professors should film short videos introducing themselves to their classes and encourage their students to do the same.
While engaging with your professors has the potential to bring forth many advantages, because of screen-recorded lectures, UT freshmen still don’t know what some of their professors look like.
Nursing freshman Sara Donovan is dismayed by how the current online format has affected student-teacher relations.
“Right now, it’s hard to even form relationships with my professors,” Donovan said. “I wish I knew them on a personal level.”
Professors can serve as a wealth of resources outside of the classroom. If your professors know you well, they can offer valuable, specific career advice. They can better help you when you are struggling with material, as opposed to a student whom they have never met.
It is also much easier to request a reference or recommendation letter from a professor who knows you well, as they will be able to articulate a more accurate depiction of you.
Of course, students shouldn’t fail to reach out to professors themselves. Despite the online format, Donovan encourages UT students to try their best to participate and build a rapport with their professors.
“There are still ways to set yourself apart, like in office hours,” Donovan said. “Because everyone always has their camera off, it’s easy to stand out.”
However, as this virtual semester drones on and next semester promises to look the same, professors should take the first step and introduce themselves properly. In their videos, professors should take a couple minutes to talk about their backgrounds and their research areas, as well as personal tidbits like their hobbies and interests outside of the University.
Biology lecturer Elizabeth Bradbury, who teaches an introductory biology class and has training in online teaching, shared an introductory video with her students at the beginning of the semester and required them to do the same.
“The experience is much more enjoyable for both parties if they know more about each other, and knowing each other is part of building a learning community,” Bradbury said. “Establishing the formations of a learning community is the biggest challenge right now. Introductory videos are really valuable because it’s a way to form these connections.”
The introduction videos could be categorized by college and posted on Canvas for freshmen to browse. This way, freshmen can learn about a wide variety of professors, not just their own.
Watching these videos could motivate disconnected freshmen to learn more about groundbreaking research at UT, allowing them to explore all their interests and potentially spark new ones. At the very least, these videos could show students that their professors are people outside the classroom, too, thus facilitating a level of familiarity and mutual respect that will make online learning much more rewarding.
Online classes make it difficult for students, especially freshmen, to forge meaningful connections with their professors at UT. Introductory videos that showcase professors’ personalities, interests and backgrounds will help to bridge that gap.
Butler is an undeclared freshman from Austin, Texas.