Connections Class (Cookies in the Classroom)

Cookies as strategy?  Tell me more.

The feeling of intimidation many students experience around faculty members may stop them from asking for help—both during and after classroom hours. However, something as simple as cookies in the classroom can start a conversation between faculty and students.

At the beginning of your course each term, take 20 minutes to share cookies (or some other yummy treat) with your students. As they munch, tell them about yourself.  There aren't rules for what you should share, but you can tell them about your background, your research interests, or anything that enables them to see you as a person. Cookies help students and faculty connect in the classroom.

How did this get started?

The University of Texas at Austin created Connections Classes (Cookies in the Classroom) as part of their work with ENGAGE.  ENGAGE has developed a toolkit that includes information other schools can use to host Connections Classes on their campuses. Students who’ve attended Connections Classes said they felt the experience helped them make connections between their courses and the real world—including career paths.

View a webinar on 2 time-effective strategies to retain undergraduate students in engineering: Cookies Connections and Talk to Me.



Tips for getting this underway in your school:

Diversity, Student Success, and Teaching & Learning teams at your school make great facilitators for a Connections Class program since they can effectively reach across departments.

Schools implementing Cookies in the Classroom have found that using procedures and tools can help (1) make the process easier to expand/share with faculty members, and (2) assist with evaluating how students experience the program.

Click here to download the Connections Class Toolkit (implementing Cookies in the Classroom).

In it, you’ll find examples of the following:

  • Schedule for Connections Class preparation, implementation, and follow up—as well as Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Sample invitation to faculty to host a Connections Class.
  • Sample emails to faculty reminding them about their upcoming Connections Class—plus follow-up emails thanking them for their participation.
  • Online assessment tool to obtain faculty feedback about their experience hosting a Connections Class.
  • Online assessment to obtain students’ input about their Connections Class experiences.

What do students think about Connections Classes (Cookies in the Classroom)?

Since 2011, 110 Connections Classes have been held in 1st- and 2nd-year Engineering courses at The University of Texas at Austin reaching 6,545 students. All students who participated in these classes felt they learned something new from their course instructors and 84% felt that there was value in the Connections Class. They particularly enjoyed learning more about the professor, including his/her research, experiences, and life outside the classroom. Students felt the class helped them make connections between their engineering or computer science course and the real world, including career paths. See more information in the infographic below.


Students’ impressions of their professor during and after the Connections Class were quite positive. Some common themes from their comments were that the professor was knowledgeable and passionate about his/her work and research. Students also appreciated hearing about real-life applications and careers related to the course content.

After my professor’s Connections Class lecture I decided that I wanted to try to get involved in the program he had mentioned. My professor sparked a new interest for me. I actually started trying to research new technologies used to dispose of toxic waste.
I felt my professor was setting an environment [where] we could feel more comfortable with the class in order to perform better. Also, by doing so we don’t feel intimidated by the professor as we are with some others.

What do faculty think about Connections Classes (Cookies in the Classroom)?

Faculty at The University of Texas at Austin have shared information about their work histories, current research, personal backgrounds, and hobbies - whatever they are comfortable with. They reported an increased sense of accessibility to students, improved relationship with students and an added feeling of informality to the class. 

I think it definitely helped build a better relationship with the students — it definitely changed their body language towards me, if that makes sense.
“It helped students to see me as a person they could relate to. I think that doing this early in the semester helps with breaking the barrier early on, so that students can then feel more comfortable to ask questions.”