Student Affairs NOW: Virtual Engagement Beyond the Pandemic

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Student Affairs NOW: Virtual Engagement Beyond the Pandemic

Part of WiFi (What I Find Interesting) Wednesday.

Student Affairs NOW: Virtual Engagement Beyond the Pandemic

Listen to Virtual Engagement Beyond the Pandemic from Student Affairs NOW, May 5, 2021.

Dr. Keith Edwards discusses lessons learned over the past year and beyond on how to effectively engage students virtually. Rob Buelow, Dr. David Hibbler, and Alyssa Teubner share recommendations for those considering where and how to continue virtual student engagement beyond COVID-19.


  • Rob Buelow is the Senior Vice President of Higher Education and Impact at EVERFI, an international technology company driving social change through education. 
  • David F. Hibbler, Jr., Ph.D., currently serves as the Associate Director for Residential Education at the University of South Florida, Tampa campus. 
  • Alyssa Teubner (she/her/hers) currently serves as the Assistant Director of New Student Programs at North Dakota State University.

Dr. Edwards reminded me of one of the earlier podcasts, where senior leaders commented on the ability of higher ed to pivot online early in 2020, “We pivoted, we did it, we did it quickly. And we pivoted – that doesn’t mean we pivoted well. And I think today’s episode really is when we made the shift to virtual, what would it look like if we did that really well now we’ve had the benefit of lessons learned?”

“So whether we’re just doing a three-minute video, how do you think about the design and the accessibility and engagement and representation and the chunking down even if you’re just doing a short video or a 20 minute video or a, or a 50 minute video so many good things that can be applicable. And really what’s just standing out for me is just the intentionality that I think sometimes we get so caught up in content and you’re really pointing us to content is important, but then it’s the how and the pedagogy and how we’re getting at it and really being thoughtful.”

Dr. Keith Edwards, Virtual Engagement Beyond the Pandemic from Student Affairs NOW, May 5, 2021.

“And I saw this great article in the fall and of all places, and it was about college and the Black Lives Matter movement. And it told the story of this prospective student Mariama Lemon. And she was looking around, you know, months before at the cost of college, the academics, the extracurricular offerings.

“But as she really started to narrow her search down, her deciding question was what will my experience be on campus as a black woman? And what the article really pointed out was we’re not making it easy on students to see the commitment we have to the values that they care about.”

Rob Buelow, Virtual Engagement Beyond the Pandemic from Student Affairs NOW, May 5, 2021.

Continue Virtual Engagement Beyond the Pandemic from Student Affairs NOW, May 5, 2021.

Higher Ed Jobs: Supporting Empathic Communication in Virtual Meeting Spaces

Read Supporting Empathic Communication in Virtual Meeting Spaces by Daniel B. Griffith, J.D, from, May 5, 2021.

My high empathic-extroverted self has had to adapt to the virtual chat environment. And there is good reason.

The author suggests that “Face-to-face is preferable to other meeting modalities because it facilitates participants’ ability to engage in the full range of empathic communication processes. Beyond the words we speak, we can more readily pick up on a person’s complete message by observing, face-to-face, the non-verbal messages that give meaning and context to the words and the para-verbal signals — the grunts, groans, heavy sighs, tone, inflection, the rhythm of speech, and so forth — that add further emphasis to the true meaning of the speaker’s message.

“Each time we subtract from this full panoply of communication tools — first, audio-visual only (video conferencing); second, audio-only (phone; teleconferencing); and third, text-only (email, instant messaging, etc.) — we lose an additional element of the total message that is essential for empathic communication.”

Below are ways to ameliorate or compensate for the lack of in-person communication, when there is the favorable method to speak.

Anticipate the potential need for increased empathy. 

Consider checking in beforehand with team members to see if there are any particular concerns team members wish to discuss that may be impacting work and team efforts. If a team member communicates a more personal concern or you sense such a concern, seek to discuss it off-line so the person may be more focused for the group meeting later. 

Acknowledge deficits and establish ground rules and expectations to account for it

When meeting virtually, it is especially important to acknowledge upfront what is missing in the communication process so you can account for it. It is also important to acknowledge the absence of non-verbal cues and other messaging we would normally pick up on in face-to-face interactions. Help participants understand the need for greater attention to how others are communicating and to be mindful about assumptions they might make regarding what someone has said, how they said it, or when they are silent, which may not mean what we might otherwise conclude in a face-to-face exchange.

Slow down

An hour was not sufficient time whereas it might have been face-to-face. Listening and responding with empathy shouldn’t be a hurried process anyway. Where more processing time is needed, slow it down. Schedule extra time, incorporate breaks, and take other measures to address the slower process of communication exchange that virtual spaces require.

Apply extras doses of attentiveness and sensitivity

Empathic listening…allows us to make educated guesses of what we observe and sense to reflect our best understanding of what the other is feeling and experiencing. Presence, immediacy, and educated guesses are compromised in a distanced virtual environment because we lack all the information normally afforded through non-verbal cues. You must still engage in these practices, but, again, slow down the process and beg the other person’s indulgence as you take more time, ask more clarifying questions, and become more exhaustive in your efforts to confirm that the person feels you’ve demonstrated your understanding of the person’s concerns in the way they intend.

Recognize the limits

We shouldn’t pretend that virtual spaces will address all our communication needs, even when we try to account for deficits. One suggestion for combatting “Zoom fatigue” is to call someone instead to talk through concerns. Video’s inability to allow us to pick up on non-verbal cues with the same immediacy as face-to-face may at times be worse than having only auditory cues through a phone call. A phone call may also force us to listen more deeply to compensate for the loss of visual cues. 

Continue Supporting Empathic Communication in Virtual Meeting Spaces by Daniel B. Griffith, J.D, from, May 5, 2021.

Harvard Business Review: What Mix of WFH and Office Time Is Right for You?

Read What Mix of WFH and Office Time Is Right for You? by Robert C. Pozen and Alexandra Samuel, from Harvard Business Review, May 4, 2021.

My husband learned that his company is intending to re-open to office work in September, pending state regulations and changes. He has enjoyed his lazy mornings preparing for his Zoom meetings, his ability to eat lunch at home and to workout at his own leisure. I know that he will look into mixing up his in-office days with his work-from-home days. But what mix will work best for him (and me, who works from home regularly?)

Pozen and Samuel share, “Many companies intend to give us the best of both worlds by allowing employees to split their time between home and the workplace. But it will only give you the best of both worlds if you figure out how to combine home and office time in a way that maximizes your productivity and personal wellbeing. That means figuring out which days to spend at home, which days to spend at the office, and just as crucial, how to sell your boss on that plan.”

The authors suggest that workers “create a hybrid work plan that allows you to get the most out of each day, first track and analyze your work to figure out which factors affect your productivity. Then match your findings up with your upcoming tasks and responsibilities. Finally, summarize your plan for your boss to get their buy-in.”

Track Metrics That Matter

To track your productivity in each location, you first need to determine what to measure. We tend to think of productivity in terms of hours worked, but a more effective measure is the actual results of your labors. For hard metrics, look for some output measurements (words typed, emails answered, tasks checked off) as well as data on how your time gets used (we like automatic time trackers like or ManicTime). For soft metrics, consider logging both your mood and your sense of accomplishment at the end of each day (use a 1 to 5 scale); you can also use things like email or group messaging to track feedback from others. None of these indicators is perfect, but together they present a useful picture.

Look for Patterns

Once it’s time to crunch the numbers, just eyeballing the columns of your spreadsheet will give you a sense of where you need to dig into the numbers more deeply. If your productive time or mood varies wildly from day to day, for example, you might scan for something that seems to correlate with those variations — perhaps the amount of time you spend in meetings, or your sleep hours.

Look especially for any divergences between your home days and your office days. Are there certain kinds of tasks that you complete more quickly at home, or at the office? Do meetings have the same impact on your mood or productivity when they’re face-to-face, rather than held via video? Do your most productive work times differ depending on when you’re working?

Making the Case for Your Hybrid Plan

Knowing where you want to spend your time is all well and good, but it won’t help if your boss isn’t supportive of your hybrid work plan. Luckily, all the data you’ve crunched about your productivity gives you a great place to start making the case. Summarize your findings in a concise note that shows the major responsibilities on your plate broken out into the parts that are best handled at the office, and the parts that are best handled at home. Support your conclusions with data that shows you write more words, reply to more emails, or create presentations more efficiently on the days that you are at home.

My husband’s company operates with east coast and west coast offices. Working remotely works on days that require hours of virtual meetings between the two offices. In-person work would only be required for local meetings and collaborations. While his schedule may not be set in stone week to week, he is planning to work from home at least one day per week and perhaps two days. I am curious how he plans to sell this idea to his supervisor and plan to update readers as he makes more firm decisions.

Continue What Mix of WFH and Office Time Is Right for You? by Robert C. Pozen and Alexandra Samuel, from Harvard Business Review, May 4, 2021.

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About Post Author

Joseph Rios, EdD

I am Joseph Rios and I believe that leadership is an expression of our values
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