Building community in a Zoom classroom is a difficult endeavor, but one instructor found a method that worked well for her. Rachel Toor, professor of creative writing at Eastern Washington University’s writing program, asked students to write an ungraded personal essay each week in addition to their academic work. Students would post the essay in a “sandbox,” or a Zoom discussion thread, and then break into small groups to talk about that week’s prompt.
The assignment worked well, Toor writes in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Students got to know one another better and writing improved. “The writing became more vulnerable, more authentic, and, frankly, a whole lot better. That was a function of learning tools and tricks from published writing, but also of getting more comfortable using their own voices,” Toor said.
Toor also offers other tips for teaching online. Her ideas include allowing for small-group interactions, assigning shorter reading assignments, emailing students who are less visible during classroom discussions, and meeting at scheduled times each week.