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Human connection

Teaching Tuesdays: Dr. Joelle Rodway

Teaching and Learning | Remote Life

By Angela Hunt

When it comes to online teaching and learning, Dr. Joelle Rodway believes that the key to success is building a strong “relational infrastructure.”

Dr. Rodway is a professor and researcher at the Faculty of Education, and while remote teaching was foreign territory for her before the pandemic, the transition is one that her students and peers say she has fully, and successfully, embraced.

“I had no real strategies for facilitating synchronous online learning when we first transitioned,” she said. “I was just determined to make it work well because I care so deeply about my students’ success.”

Dr. Rodway says there was a lot of trial and error in the early days. But, she now believes that her students are getting the very best of her – success that she attributes to building an intuitive course shell and strong relationships with her students.

In the below video produced by Memorial’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Rodway shares how she builds “relational infrastructure” by connecting with her students face-to-face, engaging in open discussion forums, regular virtual office hours and peppering her course shells with hyperlinks that draw connections within her many course materials.

Human connection

“At the very core of learning is human connection, so the key is to build a strong relational infrastructure,” said Dr. Rodway.

“I want my students to know who I am as a person, and I want to know who they are. I place myself in their space, I make my thinking visible, I tell them my kids are going to show up in the videos I post, and most importantly, I continually ask for feedback.”

While the transition to remote teaching and learning has created an unavoidable physical distance, Dr. Rodway says she actually feels more connected than ever.

“Even though you’re not in the same room, you can engage in an online space, you can feel human connection.” — Dr. Joelle Rodway

“My course design is very intentional. Engaging all the elements of effective online learning takes a great deal of time and places very high demands on me as an instructor. I work extremely hard facilitating my courses, and I maintain high expectations of my students – it’s give and take on both sides, and between us, we have everything we need to be successful.”

If you asked Dr. Rodway her thoughts on virtual learning this time last year, she would have an entirely different response than she does today.

“Even though you’re not in the same room, you can engage in an online space, you can feel human connection, you can feel that someone cares about you and you can develop true and genuine relationships. Some might argue that online teaching and learning is a less-than experience, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. My students are getting the absolute best of me.”

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