YOU Matter – Online and Face-to-Face

Student-instructor relationships matter in community college classes — regardless of whether a course is taught on-campus or online. But when you teach online, you need to be more intentional about crafting your online presence to convey yourself as a real person who cares about your students’ learning.

Data shared by the Community College Research Center shows there are some concerning gaps between the instructor-student relationships in face-to-face and online classes. Research shows that community college students feel their relationships with instructors in their face-to-face courses are more “personal,” “immediate,” “detailed,” and “solid” when compared with their relationships with their online instructors. When learning online, students report feeling the need to teach themselves. One student in a large research study shared, “It just seems … when you do it online, if you need help, your teacher is basically not there.”

We know these student takeaways are not ok. We know instructor-student relationships are the foundation of meaningful, supportive community college learning experiences — regardless of a course’s modality. And to support faculty, @ONE is now offering a online professional development course, Humanizing Online Teaching and Learning, to introduce faculty to the relevant research about instructor presence, social presence, and culturally responsive teaching; experience a humanized online class through the lens of a student; experiment with creating micro-videos; see examples of how other faculty are applying humanizing practices in their online classes; and work through the nerves we all feel when speaking to a webcam (it really does get easier!).

Recently, I sat down with Tracy Schaelen, from Southwestern College, to explore her views about humanizing online teaching and learning. As always, Tracy provided invaluable insights about why the instructor-student relationship is so important for supporting the needs of our students, especially those from underserved populations. In the 17-minute video embedded below, Tracy also provides us with a tour of some of her own humanizing practices, which we hope will inspire you to check @ONE’s course catalog and register for the next offering of Humanizing Online Teaching and Learning. Tracy will be one of the facilitators of this new course!

Posted in Articles, Course Design Showcase, humanizing, Online Teaching, Rubric Section B.

Michelle (@brocansky) is Faculty Mentor, Online Teaching & Learning for @ONE and CVC-OEI and author of Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies. Michelle began teaching in the CCC system in 1999, has been teaching online since 2003, and has been an online educational developer since 2009. She also teaches the History of Photography online for Mt. San Jacinto College. Learn more about Michelle at or connect with her on Twitter @brocansky.


  1. Not being able to have someone to give directions on the first day of the Semester it can cause stress to the Student. But after watching this Humanizing video for College courses. I know understand the connection between how you can setup the course with a nice welcome video.

  2. Absolutely, students will feel that the instructor cares about them so much from the first impression!

  3. I absolutely LOVED this video example. It really inispired me becuase one of my biggest strengths is being myself with my students. They consistently give me feedback about my approachability and I was very nervous to lose that going completely online this coming semester. This has given me great ideas as to how I can keep being me! Thank you so much!!!

  4. Michelle,
    thank you so much for sharing. I enjoyed seeing the use of video comments. I have thought about using these tools, but seeing them in action is inspiring and helpful. Great video.

    Thank you for sharing.

  5. this was really helpful. I like the short videos to get the class welcomed and the begin here button. I like the grading suggestions on positive feedback before suggestions.

  6. I like the idea of making very short, friendly videos for the students to get a sense that I’m thinking about them and that in a friendly way. This is really helpful, thanks, because I’d been afraid that if I started to make a YouTube video, I might on into “lecture” mode and bore the socks off everyone.

  7. All so wise and yet seemingly challenging, It’s a re-orientation and so far, feels like there are many pitfalls.

  8. Great video! Very informative with great insight into what now seems like a common sense approach to on line interaction between students and instructor. This will most likely get everyone started without stress and make everyone feel more comfortable with interacting with each other. The short videos will help to humanize on line class interactions.

  9. Very informative with great insight into what now seems like a common sense approach to on line interaction between students and instructor. This will most likely get everyone started without stress and make everyone feel more comfortable with interacting with each other. The short videos will help to humanize on line class interactions.

  10. The professor was approachable engaging, and non-threatening, so important in building rapport with students under any classroom format. This is especially critical in on-line courses, where there is already a feeling of distance and invisibility and lack of human “touch.”

    I think a lot of the goals are intuitive for most instructors, or we wouldn’t be drawn to this profession, but what these professors have done is to give us the suggestions, directions, and their own experiences to help us humanize our classes in an online setting. They already have the heartset and mindset to build rapport and trust with their students, they have just learned how to do this online and share this info with us in a similar way that they do in their courses. We, instructors, have trepidations in our online teaching training that mirror those of our online students. It can seem overwhelming without help in breaking things down. Thank you for breaking it down in an engaging and helpful way.

  11. I love the humanized classes, that is the way to make a connection and show them we are not robot, they feel so comfortable to ask questions.

  12. Yes! Anything to bring the human touch to an online class is extremely beneficial, I am just trying to figure out a way to make my dog the narrator!

  13. That was a great video. I was very worried when covid hit and I had to put my class on line. I was worried that the students would feel
    completely unprepared and Lost. Keeping in touch and reaching out to them really helped .The human touch when ever possible!
    Now that my class is going to stay online I am very motivated to create the same welcoming environment on line that I had in my face to face. It was encouraging to hear that some things I am already doing are on track. I really liked the idea of the voice thread!
    I am going to add that! Thank you again for this video.

  14. The video offers some interesting interactions through the brief intro embedded videos. I often interject personal anecdotes about my student struggles and experiences with certain assignments. I intend to embed some of these short anecdotes into the module’s instructional texts and discussion introductions.

  15. Thank you so much for this video! Instructors are supposed to be there for the students just like an in-person classroom setting.

  16. Since I know my cat will make an “entrance”, walking across my keyboard as I teach, I like the idea of introducing her ahead of time to the class…Thanks

  17. I really liked the Course information page introduction.
    Two truths and a lie and the picture of Tracy with her dog are truly insightful.
    I agree that letting students into your life, even just a little bit, makes a huge difference in connecting with them.
    The voice thread is a great idea. I have never used this tool, but I certainly will in the future.
    Thank you.

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