Building Online Communities
A supportive learning environment lays the groundwork for fostering community online. Hybrid classes are often seen as a compromise between the conventional face to face classroom and online learning. What are some of the ways to design hybrid courses to maximize face-to-face time to promote the development of learning communities? The resources in this section will provide suggestions for encouraging students to interact with one another in both settings to set the tone for active learning.
Setting the Stage
With intentional planning, it is possible to beginbuilding community in your hybrid class from the first day. When you include large and small group discussions at the outset of your lecture you can set a precedent for future discussions whether they be conducted online or in-person. By using positive reinforcement and establishing a non-threatening environment, you can organize and establish group work during in-class time and encourage students to work outside of class in virtual spaces to resume conversations and complete projects outside of class.
- Video: Corly Brooke Iowa State University on Welcoming Students on the first day: First interactions between the instructor and a large class. Learn how to create a welcoming environment, build rapport with students and facilitate respect in the classroom.
Developing the Skills Necessary for Collaborative Interaction
Convenient and flexible course schedules are particularly important for students who are working, need remedial classes, or can only take classes part-time, but implementing a collaboration tool like a discussion forum doesn’t in and of itself define online community. Shifting from conventional classroom education to distance learning poses an added challenge to instructors and learners, particularly to those who have been taught in the traditional modality; interactions can seem artificially driven in the virtual model. It’s also more challenging for the professor to ‘take the pulse of’ the room’ to see whether students are following the material, are bored, confused, or to even determine whether students are present.
Since we know that today’s learners are more engaged with the computer instead of other learners, it’s easy to imagine however misguided their assumption, that there is a lack a natural social outlet- this sense can lead to feelings of isolation. Because isolation is a major contributor to attrition (Morgan & Tam, 1999), one potential strategy for reducing dropout rates is for hybrid and online instructors to develop courses that strengthen the skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity that enable students to support each other and feel part of a community. The task is to structure the course design so learners have mechanisms to connect with each other and form community.
Create an Orientation course online
Faculty Commons- The student orientation is an information rich tool. The orientation is segmented into 7 major components. These components are designed to help acclimate students to online learning, the online community, and the LMS environment. Interlaced with the content are interactive activities and quizzes for students to practice and become more familiar with the online learning environment.
Coursesites Student Orientation
7 Principles for Good Practice in Education
Chickering and Gamson (1987)- “Technologies as Levers: New communication and information technologies have become major resources for teaching and learning in higher education. If the power of the new technologies is to be fully realized, they should be employed in ways consistent with the Seven Principles.”
- Student – Faculty contact
- Cooperation amongst students
- Active learning
- Prompt feedback
- Time on task
- High expectations
- Value diverse talents and learning styles
• Groups. Groups must be properly formed and managed.
• Accountability. Students must be accountable for the quality of their individual and group work.
• Feedback. Students must receive frequent and timely feedback.
• Assignment design. Group assignments must promote both learning and team development.
Videos on Building Learning Communities
- Tom Brumm says learning communities and engagement give students a jump-start into their academic and professional lives
- Team Based Learning website– Larry K. Michaelsen
- Steve Mickelson discusses how students build lifetime friendships within “communities of success” where learning community participation can help them in their more rigorous courses.
- Jane Jacobson highlights learning community connections in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at ISU.