by Eric Ritholz, Online Learning Coordinator at the Office of Educational Technology 

The design and delivery of an online class is more than organization, content, and schedules.  The online class (or shell) is an integral hub for developing a sense of community.  

In an in-person learning environment, students interact before, during, and after classes.   

Recognition and sense of belonging are essential to learning regardless of modality, and even more so in times of increased uncertainty.  Nurturing a dynamic that includes the instructor and the students helps to establish a learning experience that motivates and inspires. 

Please consider how you would go about doing this.  Towards that end it is recommended that you read this article: 

Community from a Distance: Building a Sense of Belonging in an Online Classroom 

Prof. Kari Henry Hulett, Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology 

With permission of the author, I am including excerpts of the article below: 

Community by Design  

Humans do not learn in a void; learning is a social event. When I approach designing an online course, I always put community building first on my priority list. I build community by including two primary methods of interaction: weekly discussions and periodic conferences. Those two components make a difference in both the students’ sense of community and rapport with me as well as with their classmates. 

Strategies for Building Online Community
Discussion Board:

  • Moderate a weekly discussion thread
  • Pose open-ended discussion questions
  • Generate questions reflecting Bloom’s higher order thinking
  • Require students to respond to 2 peer responses weekly
  • Provide guiding questions to advance student discussions
  • Use LMS for peer-peer editing of assignments
Faculty Student Consultation:

  • Schedule individual conferences to acquaint self with student
  • Provide feedback to student on specific work
  • Consider group appointment when appropriate
  • Make students responsible for setting and keeping appointments
  • Schedule meetings at 15 minute intervals with time allotted for login and set up

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