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.

Early Outreach Tool in Moodle – Pilot Opportunity

Exciting news! Early Outreach is partnering and collaborating with Academic Technology in programming courses in Moodle to auto”magically” send notifications to at-risk students. The Early Outreach Tool will look for students whose course grade are below 70% at weeks 3, 5, and 7 and will send notifications from Early Outreach for support. The ultimate goal is to reach out to students early and often and provide the proper support so they are successful in their course.

Why would I want this Early Outreach tool in my Moodle course(s)?

The PLD will check grades at weeks 3, 5, and 7.  If students grade range is between 0% and 70% the student and early outreach will be notified.
The EO Tool will check grades at weeks 3, 5, and 7. If students grade range is between 0% and 70% the student and early outreach will be notified.

If the Early Outreach tool is successful you would no longer need to manually review your Moodle gradebook and make referrals to early outreach. This saves you time and ensures at-risk students are identified early and often. This is a win for instructors and a win for students!

What is the Early Outreach tool going to do and what do instructors need to do?

The “Early Outreach tool” will send an email and force an alert on your course to all students who have between a 0-70% course total at specific times during the year. The tool will check student grades on Monday at 8am on Weeks 3, 5, and 7 of the Winter term. The email/alert will communicate to students that they are at risk based on current course total and requests they meet with Early Outreach for support.

What do instructors need to do:

  • Nothing you are not already doing!!!
  • Keep an updated Moodle gradebook. Understand alerts go out Monday at 8am – it is essential the gradebook be accurate in order to target truly at-risk students.
  • Communicate with me if you find anything not working or if you have any concerns or questions.
  • Share any feedback on how the implementation of this tool impacted students.

Want more info?

If you would like to learn more about how we are using PLD to program early alerts or have other questions – please feel free to ask me! I would be happy to review the tool and student experience and answer any questions you may have.

Interested?

Just let me know (steevesk@lanecc.edu)!  I will need to know what Winter CRNs you would like the tool implemented.