Complications & Connections
Complications: Some faculty will be teaching introductory, general education, or seminar courses that have a significant proportion of first-year students. The first year of college is always especially precarious with students having to quickly transition academically, socially, and emotionally and, with universities’ increased attention to rates of retention, there is always pressure associated with teaching this population of students. With the threat of COVID-19 and changes having to be made to our traditional face-to-face classes, first-year students might grapple with feelings of isolation and frustration, experience academic difficulties and issues of miscommunication with peers and professors, and face more obstacles in their college persistence journey than previous cohorts. We have collected resources for faculty who are teaching first-year students during this tumultuous time, particularly emphasizing taking time to grow and nurture community among students.
Connections to ACE: For faculty, Connection is an important value in ACE to consider in these situations. Students who have been on campus for years of traditional, face-to-face classes have had the opportunity to find their place in their college community and build relationships with peers, professors, and staff, while first-year students haven’t had the chance to make their connections. Forging connections will be difficult in an online or partially online environment. “Fostering Classroom Community” is a starting point for focusing efforts on deliberately building opportunities for the classroom community to emerge and flourish by starting with building trust. “The Internet as Classroom and Community” discusses how students can be encouraged to work on the open web and how your classroom community can be widened to include other students, academics, and scholars.
Equity is another relevant connection to ACE when supporting first-year students. For first-generation college students and students part of minority groups especially, persisting at a four-year university comes with a multitude of obstacles. Considering ways to make your teaching more equitable and communicating yourself as a resource for basic needs, university processes, and a connector to other on-campus resources can do a lot to show that students have an ally should they need support. Ultimately, first-year students will benefit from an approach of compassion as they will need mentors they feel comfortable reaching out to for help.
Resources for Teaching First-Year Students Online
- Student Retention During COVID-19 via Lewis-Clark State College Center for Teaching and Learning
- Op-ed: How COVID-19 has affected UNC’s class of 2024
- Project-Based Learning in the First Year book by Kristin Wobbe & Elisabeth A. Stoddard
- Best Practices for Teaching First-Year Undergraduates: strategies from experienced faculty via Carnegie Mellon