Building Community in an Online Class

Building a sense of community with online learners.

Sometimes things are easier said than done!  How do you make a connection with students and build a community – when you never see them?!  Unlike face-to-face courses, you don’t usually get to meet (in person) your students in an online course.  How can you help make your online students feel comfortable and confident when interacting with the course, fellow students, and the instructor?

Luckily, we have a few ideas on how to help instructors to build class community in their online courses.

Why?

A lot of research is out there that concludes that when students feel connected and apart of a community they are more likely to be successful in the course.  Courses that have community and promote a constructivist and/or social context approach to teaching and learning lead to increased student success rates.  

What

Activities that help build a sense of class community (early the course) fall into three general categories:

  • Social Activities which focus on self-expression
  • Cognitive activities which focus on academic and professional goals.
  • “Getting Started” activities that allow students to become familiar with the course and technology.

Each of these types of activities develops social presence, promote learner engagement, and opens communication (oscqr.org, 2019).  

How

  • Use an icebreaker to start off your course!
  • Post a question in a forum – first student answers the question and asks the next – this continues until all students have answered and asked a question.  Instructor answers the final question.
  • Create an informal open [Zoom, Google Hangouts, Moodle Chat] space where students can meet and discuss course-related topics.
  • Update your profile page and ask/assign your students to do the same!
  • Participate in all the introductory and getting started activities!  Instructors should model what they would expect students to share.
  • Use a positive tone!
  • Use Digital Posters for Online Community Introductions

Explore further

Jones, P., Naugle, K., & Kolloff, M. (2008). Teacher presence: Using introductory videos in hybrid and online coursesLearning Solutions.

McIntyre, C. (2004). Shared Online and Face-to-Face Pedagogies: Crossing the Brick-and-Click Divide. Educational Technology, 44(1), 61-63.

Russo, T. C., & Campbell, S. W. (2004). Perceptions of mediated presence in an asynchronous online course: Interplay of communication behaviors and mediumDistance Education, 25(2), 215 – 232.

Widmeyer, W. N. & Loy, J. W. (1988). When you’re hot, you’re hot! Warm-cold effects in first impressions of persons and teaching effectivenessJournal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 118-121.

Getting Started with Online Course Instruction

Online training available!  The Instructional Design team has released Getting Started with Online Course Design.  This course is an introductory course to teaching online at Lane Community College.  This course is highly recommended for instructors who are new to teaching online and/or instructors who would like a refresher on online teaching strategies.  All interested LCC faculty can join!

Being an effective, online instructor requires a set of skills that are similar to those required in the face-to-face classroom. The online instructor must be able to build community while having little to no face-to-face contact, offer clear, regular (weekly), and informative feedback, communicate effectively in a medium that lacks body language and tone of voice, as well as use instructional strategies that are independent of time and space to support student learning. The added aspect of the required technologies, like the Learning Management System (LMS)/Moodle, also comes into play.

This course will introduce you to the many facets of online instruction as you build skills in four areas: technical, managerial, social, and pedagogical. Finally, to synthesize all you have learned, you will build an instructional Checklist to help guide your ongoing online instructional needs.

Course Outcomes

  • Articulate the principles and best practices of online course instruction.
  • Mold course participants into effective online learners by understanding learning styles and teaching strategies to meet their needs.
  • Encourage participation in the online environment using best practices and through a variety of online tools.
  • Enhance and strengthen online learning by using different instructional strategies and creating interactive course components that foster collaboration.
  • Follow strategies for managing your time using tools and effective classroom management strategies to help organize and maintain the online classroom.
  • Identify assessment and feedback strategies, tools to support assessment, grading, and prevention of plagiarism in the online environment.

Enroll in Getting Started with Online Instruction