Building relationships with students in the online classroom is an essential step for creating a successful virtual classroom. Students who have strong relationships with their teachers and classmates are more likely to complete work and remained engaged during class and less likely to act out or have behavior issues. Though building relationships online may seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be difficult! Read on for four easy ways to build relationships in the online classroom.

1. Give Students a Private Place to Share

Students may not feel comfortable sharing what is happening in their lives the same way they would in a classroom. For instance, other family members might be listening-in to their conversation, limiting what they feel comfortable talking about. Giving students a place to share information allows them to communicate with the teacher while maintaining a sense of privacy. Creating a daily check-in Google Form is a great way to gather information about students in an organized way.

2. Be Reasonable and Flexible

Each student comes to the online classroom with their own experiences and life situations. Some students may have a supportive parent sitting next to them to help them with technology and classwork, while others may be responsible for assisting their younger siblings. As you create your class rules and expectations, leave space for flexibility on an individual basis. If a student is having difficulty completing work during the school day because they are responsible for others, give them extra time to complete assignments. If a student doesn’t feel comfortable showing their home environment, let them turn off their camera or use a virtual background.

There are many ways to create reasonable accommodations for students based on their needs. Knowing their experience is being respected, accepted, and accommodated goes a long way in creating a strong relationship.

3. Take Time for Games and Casual Conversation

Online students still require connection to their classmates but are missing out on key non-academic experiences like recess and lunch. Building a few minutes into the day for casual conversation and fun gives students the opportunity to build social relationships with their teachers and classmates. Fun games like “Would You Rather,” “I Spy,” and “20 Questions” work for any age and encourage students to spend time talking and laughing with their class.

4. Ask Students What They Need

Students likely have many ideas about what is working and what isn’t working in their online classroom. Regularly asking students for their opinions and advice demonstrates that they are trusted and valued. If students propose an idea that is reasonable, try to implement it in the classroom. Students who have a voice in how their classroom runs are generally more engaged.

Building relationships online is not difficult, but it does require intentionality and consistency. By making an effort each and every day to engage students through fun and flexibility, students will feel connected to their classmates and teachers, just as they would in the brick and mortar classroom.