Faculty member replaces office hours with special virtual gathering to help stay connected with students

Paola León
Paola León, associate professor of social work and director of the master of social work program

A meeting with a student who had hit some struggles helped Paola León come up with an idea to help better connect virtually.

The student lamented not knowing León because they couldn't meet in person, said León, associate professor of social work and director of the master of social work program.

The idea: Rather than hold conventional office hours, create a virtual "student cafe," allowing students to talk with León as well as with each other.

That type of flexibility has been important for accommodating students in a virtual setting and appreciating their differences, León said.

"We get these ideas about what a good student looks like and I’ve learned that’s not necessarily true," she said. "There isn’t a mold and I think that in online learning that’s becoming more apparent."

While León said she has found a rhythm to holding online classes, she said she has an ongoing quest to help her students see her as human, such as letting them see her experience the types of interruptions during a virtual meeting that so many people have dealt with while working from home.

León and fellow faculty members have found numerous ways to optimize the learning experience and connection to students as they conduct classes virtually. GVNext will be showcasing their stories. If you or a colleague are using innovative methods for virtual teaching, let us know.

Watch León talk about her experiences in the video below.