Building community among students and teachers is more important now than ever, but it’s also probably never been more difficult as all learning moves online. Teachers can still build strong communities of learners and strong rapport with students, however, even without seeing them in person. Here are four tips for building community in the online classroom.
1. Frequent communication is a must to begin building classroom community. Sending a welcome email at the beginning of the course, followed by weekly check-in emails and other reminders, goes a long way in building a classroom community. Assignments that are more in-depth and take more time to complete (like final papers, portfolios, etc.) can be included in these weekly emails. It can be difficult for overwhelmed students to see past what is due that week, or even that day. Just keeping the larger assignments in front of them with friendly reminders helps students begin to formulate a plan and reduce the panic that inevitably ensues when larger assignments are due.
2. Build videos into your classroom whenever you can. Websites like Blackboard make for great tools here, as they allow you to embed videos, articles, assignments, presentations, etc. directly into each module. Other teachers have found success with tools like Screencast-O-Matic or Screencastify, which allow you create videos in which you can review materials and assignments with students. Your students don’t even have to see you all the time for this to work. Even just hearing their teacher’s voice will help them feel like they know their teacher a little bit better. Teachers can reference the previous module’s work, upcoming assignments, and current events in literacy instruction. It is a great way to teach the content, keep the students engaged, and spark interest and discussion.
3. FlipGrid can revolutionize online classes. Using the video recording and sharing program FlipGrid in place of the typical online discussion forum allows students to interact, share ideas, and put a face to the name behind the screen. Connections are built and fostered while discussions are taken to a new level. For example, in one FlipGrid response, a student shared a particular teaching technique she successfully utilized. She then modeled the technique in the FlipGrid discussion thread so others would see and better understand what she was referring to.
4. Zoom has been a game-changer in many courses of online learning. Offer Zoom to students to replace typical office hours or one-on-one sessions with students who may need some extra help. Zoom offers a more face-to-face setting to discuss any assignments and expectations, as well as the opportunity to offer advice based on previous classes. The “live” feature with the ability to interact can significantly improve the student’s experience and performance.
Boston Tutoring Services