Tag Archives: online teaching

first impressions

In addition to the writer/dancer hats I wear, I’m a proud and happy online professor for what I consider to be quite the innovative university. We’ve got a new term start on Monday, which means that it’s key time for first impressions.

In person, every first impression requires an innate interpretation of body language. When I meet new people IRL, I smile, do a self-check on my posture, and adjust handshake to try to match the other person’s strength. So many things go through my mind that outside of the every single time I meet someone new, something terrible happens.

I can never remember his or her name.

By InverseHypercube (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By InverseHypercube (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Facts facts about first impressions:

  • NYU researchers found that eleven major decisions about one another occur in the first seven seconds of meeting.
  • According to the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes around two-tenths of a second for a first-time online visitor to a website to form an initial opinion of a company brand.
  • A staggering 80% of a woman’s first impression of a man has to do with the way that he carries himself.
  • Tufts professor of social psychology Nalini Ambady found that students could predict how “good” a professor was based on viewing brief (I’m talking very few seconds, here) silent clips of each teacher and rating them on different variables, which she then compared with the professors’ end-of-term ratings.

On Teaching and First Impressions:

Teaching college classes in person required much less thought process when it came to first impressions.  Inevitably, I dressed as professional as you’d expect for a professor to dress on the first day of school. I’d arrive with my syllabi printed out and ready to distribute, explain my expectations, crack a few terrible jokes and gently remind students how much I hate late papers. Then, the rest of the class time was spent with direct one-on-one discussion between me and each student so that the class could relax and start to get into a good atmosphere (which, I’ve found, produces much better learning).

Online, though, is a different story. How might a student judge a professor’s teaching style, effectiveness, and general feeling of whether a student feels, when odds are that they’ll never meet that person?

I’ve found that it’s extremely important to humanize myself. Pre-interaction, students have already got an idea of a professor based one what they’ve posted. Upon the first discussion, it’s vital to be social. I’m interested, and I have to convey that. I’m married; they might be. I’m from the Boston area; they might be. (If not, inevitably, there’s a weather discussion!) I’m approachable. I get back to students immediately. I’m all kinds of things.

What about you? What do you think conveys a first impression in an online setting?