Creating Community Online

As you welcome students back, acknowledge that this is a time of crisis, that you’re in it together, and that the transition to online learning will take some adjustment. A key element of successful online teaching is building community among your students. Students who feel a sense of belonging online will feel motivated to keep learning, despite challenges. Strategies for creating community include:

Engaging Students

Engage students as people in your class, allowing time for them to share what is happening to them outside of class, if they wish. Make yourself available for offline questions and concerns, as well.

Use an icebreaker or warmup to get everyone talking at the beginning of each session.

Make student engagement the primary goal of Zoom sessions: Revise course content to focus on the essentials in order to leave time for students to engage with and truly understand the material. If lectures are necessary, keep them short (6-8 minutes) and alternate with activities that ask students to apply what they are learning. These activities may include:

  • Full-group discussion
  • Opportunities for students to learn from each other
  • Opportunities for students to learn in small groups
  • Opportunities for students to give you feedback about what they are learning.

Active Learning

Active learning in small groups will help students understand the material while strengthening their bonds with each other. In small groups, ask students to:

  • Apply a concept to a set of data or a text
  • Work on a problem or case study together
  • Offer a competing interpretation of a text or idea
  • Answer poll questions
  • Ask each other questions about the material.

Active learning may take many forms in Zoom meetings:

  • Use the Zoom whiteboard as a collaboration tool with the full group
  • Use a Google doc or Google spreadsheet for collaborative work in full- or small-group settings
  • Use the breakout function to create small groups.