January 13, 2023

Starting online courses with one-on-one student meetings

Posted by Laura Guertin

What happens when you meet one-on-one in Zoom with each student enrolled in your online, asynchronous course during the first week of the semester? (1) Depending upon the size of the class, you are exhausted(!) and unable to schedule other/additional meetings. (2) You learn just how much meeting their online professor means to students.

This is the third semester I have required students to schedule 15-minute, one-on-one meetings with me in Zoom during the first week of classes. My purpose is:

  • For students to get to know me and my personality more than what they see in the course, and to have a “live” conversation with me (their instructor);
  • To share my goals of the course, review the syllabus and how assignments are structured;
  • To review how the course has been set up, how to access everything in the course management software;
  • To ask if there is any assistance I can provide beyond resources presented in the syllabus;
  • To respond to any questions/concerns about the course, the semester, etc.

At the end of these meetings, I inform students that we will be meeting a second time for a one-on-one meeting in the middle of the semester (during Week 8) so I can make sure they are reaching the goals they have laid out for themselves in the course, offer any assistance that I can for their continued success, and remind them of the content/deadlines for the second half of the semester.

What have I learned from these short sessions with students?

  • Students are THANKFUL that a faculty member wants to meet them. The majority of my students have made comments that they don’t feel their professors care about them, but by having a meeting with me, that perception completely changes. (seriously – the number of times students have used the words “thank you” at the very beginning of our conversations has been incredible)
  • Students that have been online for high school (during COVID) feel that an online college course will be the same and has prepared them well for an asynchronous online experience (I hate to break it to them…)
  • Students are frustrated that each online course they take uses different software and is set up differently – most of the time, they are confused by it.
  • Students that are in their first semester at my institution will often have other questions relating to campus resources, dates/deadlines on the academic calendar, etc., that I can answer for them.
  • Not all students have laptops and they are still trying to complete an online course on their cell phone. (This provides me the opportunity to let them know that they can check out a Google Chromebook from our campus library over the weekend to use)

How I introduce and conduct the one-on-one appointments is still a work in progress. In prior semesters, I had many more students sign up for the Sunday appointments the day before the semester started. This year, however, there was a Philadelphia Eagles football game taking place during these appointment slots. Since most of my students are from southeastern Pennsylvania, I’m not surprised that so few took advantage of those times.

For the mid-semester appointments, fewer students will typically sign up. It is a range of those that do take advantage of the meeting – it is student doing well and those that are struggling. But these mid-semester appointments are valuable for helping students connect with resources they need to continue on in the course – or, in some cases, get students the information they need to connect with their academic adviser.

I find that 20 minutes would be an ideal length of time to connect, as I end up speaking through all of my “required” material for most of the time, leaving little opportunity to chat with students or for a more detailed Q&A before the next student arrives. There are a few appointments that I have conducted with two students at the same time (if one student arrives late, for example). These have also gone very well, and the students get an opportunity to share advice/strategies for succeeding in an online course, etc. I may explore this model of two students for 20 minutes in my next online offering, especially if my enrollments continue to increase.

In the end, despite restricting my availability during the first week of classes to campus committee meetings or my availability to students that want to swing by and say hello after the semester break, taking the time to meet with the students in my asynchronous, online course could be the most important activity I engage in during my first week of the semester. Not only are they more connected to me, but I also feel connected to them, and I know I have done my best job in setting them up on a pathway to success to start their journey in my course.


How to set up the meetings

Note that although I used Zoom and the Canvas Calendar, instructors can use any video platform (Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc.) and any calendar for scheduling. 

I alert the students in a pre-semester announcement I post in the Canvas course that we will be doing one-on-one appointments. When I published the course a few days before the semester begins, the following is a screenshot of the text I have on the first page in the first module.


I use the Canvas Calendar to set up 15-minute appointment slots. I have some slots available starting at 8AM, and there are some evenings I make myself available until 9PM. This is a snapshot of what my calendar looked like. The dark times are slots already taken by students, while the lighter times are open. Through the Canvas Calendar, students also have the opportunity to cancel and reschedule appointments during the week.

Screenshot of a Canvas Calendar page with appointments


Snapshot of instruction window for scheduling an appointment on a Canvas CalendarWhen a student clicks on an available time, the following text (shown to the left appears). I send each student the Zoom URL we will use through a Microsoft Outlook Calendar invite. I do this so students gain some more familiarity with Outlook (the official email software of my university). In addition, I set the calendar invite to send a reminder 15 minutes before our scheduled connection time, which has proven to be super-helpful to students!