Friday, September 27, 2013

7 Strategies for Building Community in Online Courses

Loneliness and a feeling of working in isolation is one reason why some online students eventually choose to drop a course. You can combat this attrition by building community in your course. Building a learning community and a sense of social belonging doesn’t happen by accident, you as the designer, developer and instructor of your online courses have to plan to build a learning community. Here are some ways that I have found useful to accomplish this task:

1. Set some ground rules on day one of the course (see my previous post).

2. Provide two non-graded asynchronous discussion forum in the course.
Social Forum - actively encourage learners to introduce themselves and to perform a simple ice-breaker activity in the 1st week of class. Explain that this forum can be used to socialize and to post about current events during the semester. This forum should not be used to contact an instructor or a TA.; however, the instructor and the TA can participate informally in the social discussions.

General Q&A Forum - this forum should be monitored regularly by the Instructor and the TAs. It is a place for the learners to ask questions about course materials. Other learners should be encouraged to answers questions posed by their peers. Work to foster a dialogue around each question posed in this forum and take the time to post addition resources in the context of the questions being discussed.
3. Create a balance between individual and group work activities in the course. If learners will be working in groups, explain when/how the group rosters will be formed. Provide each group with its own private discussion forum. Provide some guidelines on effective virtual team-work. Include a confidential peer assessment of group work component, for all graded group-based assessment tools.

4. Design the course with the appropriate balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities that work for the learning outcomes in your course.

5. Provide netiquette and guidelines on how best to participate in the graded discussion forum, if applicable.

6. Post a weekly summary or weekly welcome message. Highlight aspects of the course that have just occurred or are about to be developed in the coming week.

7. Ask learners for feedback early in the course (about 25% of the way through). This early feedback can help inform minor course modifications that may have a high impact on learner satisfaction. It will show the learners that you care about the quality of their experience.

So there’s my list. Do you have any good points that can be added to this? Leave a comment below.

6 comments:

rachael said...

Nice list, Eric! To expand on #6, I like integrating quotes or work from the students to highlight in my summary email. It lets them know that yes, I'm actually looking at their work and I appreciate their contributions. It also serves as examples to help other students in the class.

barbara said...

Absolutely, it is important to let your students know that you are interested and are reading their work carefully. Students are often taken aback that you take the time to inspect the assignments they have worked on and comment on specifics. It does help set the example in the class, and students begin to read each other's work carefully.

barbara said...

Absolutely, it is important to let your students know that you are interested and are reading their work carefully. Students are often taken aback that you take the time to inspect the assignments they have worked on and comment on specifics. It does help set the example in the class, and students begin to read each other's work carefully.

Julio C Castro said...

Hi Eric,

I join the fellow #tomooc members that you have a very nice list here. Do you think that dealing with non-responsive students or students that are falling behind is needed in your list?

Thanks.

Julio

Eric Tremblay said...

These are great ideas everyone. Nice work!

jennifershamsy said...

Great list Eric. I think Rachael and Barbara have a great idea of including some quotes from student responses. All takes time though =( Does anyone have some time-saving tips of how to accomplish this level of personalization while not spending hours? I am thinking that using a notebook or the notepad on my smartphone would be helpful in jotting little notes down as I read and grade the posts.