Build Community in Online Courses

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"Five Ways to Build Community in Online Classrooms" (post) outlines strategies to "concretize ... 'a sense of belonging'" in an online course -- and so "increas[e] the likelihood of student success."

1. "Make yourself available." 

"[M]odel citizenship in your course ... When students are comfortable with you, they are more comfortable learning, participating, and sharing in the learning environment."

  • "Upload a photo and provide instructions for students to do the same."
  • "Personalize your course wherever you are able by using original video announcements, overviews, and lectures."
  • "Establish the tone of the community through class correspondence, discussion board replies, and assessment feedback."
  • "[G]ive students some of yourself (an anecdote about your weekend or a link to something you found interesting)."

2. "Create a communication plan." 

"[B]efore you ask students to put themselves out there, you have to show them that it’s safe to do so." 

  • "[C]reate a calendar of when you will reach out to each student individually."
  • "After the first week, reintroduce yourself and let them know that you’re available to them."
  • "Before and after midterms are great opportunities for confidence-boasting."
  • "[B]efore finals is a good time to remind them that your door (or inbox!) is always open." 

3. "Encourage interaction." 

  • "'Out' of the classroom, you can help create study groups and establish crowd-sourced notes."
  • "[T]hese should be meaningful, relevant, and theorized to avoid confusion or resentment that can sometimes result from group interactions." 

4. "Build outside class” spaces." 

In "online classrooms ... there is no 'before' or 'after' class when much of community-building often occurs ... you have to consciously build in these 'outside' spaces that are free from content delivery and assessment."

  • "Make 'water cooler' or 'café' discussion boards where the class can talk about current events and common interests."
  • "Create a social media page for the class where ideas can be shared."
  • "Watch a virtual event together and discuss it afterwards."

5. "Bring the outside in." 

"[R]emind students that they are a part of large campus culture."

  • "Post announcements about events happening on campus."
  • "Assign attendance at webinars and live-streaming events for course credit."
  • "Encourage them to take part in campus organizations that are especially friendly to distance and continuing education student."
  • "Explain how to access student support and resources." 
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