Using your LMS to Strengthen Relationships with Students

Relationships with our students are key. As educators, we know this is vital to student success. Research tells us there is a positive correlation between student engagement and academic success. Without question, the past year has been a challenge for students, families, and educators, but educators (and their students) rose to meet the challenge they faced.

If you are one of the teachers taking part in the IDOE’s book study this spring, we’re reading The Interactive Class by Joe and Kristin Merrill. In Chapter 5 one of the things that stuck with me the most was this:

“Connecting with students emotionally, rather than just cognitively, positively impacts your ability to teach students” (p. 45).  This is always true, but now, more than ever, this concept resonates.  The question I often hear is HOW?  How can I form these connections with the current restrictions that affect our ability to interact with students? How can I do this while teaching hybrid or remotely?

One of the ways I encourage teachers is to consider leveraging the tools and features of their learning management system to help to make an emotional connection with students. Our district is a Canvas district K-12, but I am hopeful that some of these ideas will translate to any LMS. I have to confess that I originally learned of some of these ideas from a Canvascasters episode with Kona Jones (@KonaRJones) and her promotion of the idea to humanize online learning (#HumanizeOL). She has also been featured on a couple of the Canvas Live videos; I learn something new every time! Now every time I’m on Twitter, I am searching for ways to support this concept and seeking out new, emerging ideas for connecting with students.

Right now we’re going to focus on using tools within your LMS to get started. Let’s look at Quizzes and Feedback as a simple way to begin.


Don’t let the name hold you back; there are SO MANY uses for quizzes beyond assessing learning on curricular materials.

1. Conduct SEL check-ins weekly or biweekly just to see how your students are doing.

2. Convert your beginning of the year questionnaire into digital format and use that information to note tidbits your students shared. Then use them

  • Conversation starters
  • Connect students with their peers who have shared interests
  • Provide specific feedback to students when you can draw connections to something they will relate to

3. In the Canvas gradebook, we have an area that allows teachers to make notations about students and this is a perfect space to record some of these pieces of information so you have them readily accessible to you at all times.


Within an LMS, there are many opportunities to provide meaningful feedback to our students. Leaving personalized, specific comments on tasks helps your students know that you are paying attention to what they’re submitting and offering suggestions that are unique to the student. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it for every assignment because, realistically, time presents a big challenge to this.

Some teachers I know have generated a comment bank in a spreadsheet that they can quickly copy and paste into the LMS and then quickly add a personal element. Within Canvas, teachers are also given the opportunity to record audio or video feedback for students. For me, this is much quicker than anything I can type, and it allows me to easily personalize the responses.

This post shares two ideas with you, but there are more to be distributed in the coming months via video blogs and on-demand sessions.

Interested in a professional development series that explores ways teachers can leverage Canvas to increase student engagement through stronger relationships?

I am working on developing a unit that will be available free of charge to interested Canvas districts. Check out Keep Indiana Learning this Fall to find more relationship-building techniques.

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