I feel especially close to the 50 college students I taught in two back-to-back summer sessions. What made the experience so unusual was that my relationship with each of them was purely a digital one because both classes were taught online.

My students easily adapted to a digital professor whom they became acquainted with online through my weekly video lectures they were required to watch. The students seemed unusually comfortable in a digital world. I, on the other hand, had a difficult time adapting.

Technology facilitates real-time connections
My online classes had no formal meeting times. Students were required to post daily comments on a private group Facebook page, and ask questions via email or text. Once I started responding to their posts, I began to feel a stronger connection to the students than I do in a traditional classroom.

I was checking the class Facebook page one night at 11 p.m. when a student posted a video from a Phillies game he was attending. His post showed a product featured on a billboard at the stadium. He explained that he now understood the role of sponsorships, thanks to that week’s reading assignment. I quickly responded and we went on to have a conversation during the 9th inning of the game I was also watching at home on ESPN. For the first time, technology enhanced my connection to a student.

The best way to get close to students? Teach a course online

It happened again the next morning. Another student posted a photo of a retailer we were studying as she walked to her internship at 7:30 a.m. in New York City. I was online at the moment of her post. As with my baseball fan student the night before, we had a short digital conversation to confirm her observation and learning experience.

For 10 straight weeks this summer, I was able to communicate with my students as they experienced the course material in their everyday lives. It added an enormous sense of authenticity and connection to the learning process.

About the Author:

Bill Bergman is a lecturer in marketing at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond in Virginia, where he teaches in the undergraduate and MBA programs. He has more than four decades of experience working in marketing, advertising, and publishing. Bergman has worked on a number of national brands while at BBDO and The Richards Group. He also worked at Newsweek magazine where he was director of circulation and marketing. He has been teaching in the Robins School of Business since 2009.


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