Online Teaching

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    Develop Class Community & Interaction
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Teach Online:
Develop Class Community & Interaction

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Build a Sense of Online Class Community

Research supports the definition of learning as a social process. In remote teaching and learning environments this can be accomplished via synchronous, asynchronous, or combinations of synchronous and asynchronous online learning environments. Online teaching and learning environments in any combinations that are designed to promote a sense of class community, with ample opportunities for interaction and the social construction of knowledge, result in teaching and learning communities of satisfied students and faculty. Interactions between students, and in particular the quantity and quality of interaction between the student and the instructor, affect faculty and student satisfaction, and often improve student perception of learning.

To encourage a sense of class community in your course provide community-building opportunities and activities that involve interactions and collaborations.

  • Provide students ample opportunities for interaction with the instructor and with others in the course.
  • Use directed learning activities to provide students with opportunities to engage and actively interact with the content.
  • Create opportunities for interaction with students and between students.
  • Include activities that build a sense of class community:personal profiles, introductions, areas in the course for non-course-related interaction, and areas in the course that support access to and interaction with the instructor and other students.
  • Design activities that create a sense of connectedness among course participants, that build social/group spirit, and that foster a sense of trust.
  • Create a learning environment that is engaging with supportive contact and interaction and that permits the sharing of,and reflection about,educational expectations and experiences.

Community in online learning environments has been defined in many ways, and various authors/researchers* have focused on different elements of community including trust, spirit, connectedness, belonging, membership, various forms of support, and the rich, productive milieu that communities of practice can engender for teaching and learning. As mentioned, current research reveals that online collaborations between the instructor and students, and between students themselves, positively and significantly influence student satisfaction and reported learning. Re-conceptualizing activities for online and remote environments, and building opportunities for such interactions, such as collaborative projects, small group work, and interaction with the instructor, and between students, will be the key to success.

The highest predictor of learner satisfaction in an online courses is the quantity and quality of interaction with the instructor. Interaction between students also has a significant and positive correlation with student satisfaction and reported learning. A strong sense of class community in your course, and effectively designed and facilitated mechanisms for interaction and engagement with your students will create a satisfying and effective learning environment and experience for all course participants.

A strong sense of class community is necessary:

  • So students can get to know each other.
  • So students will feel a sense of belonging in the course.
  • So students will establish trust with the instructor and fellow classmates – this allows a transition from social presence to teaching and cognitive presences.
  • So students can form distinct impressions of others in the course – so students feel those they interact with are “real.”
  • So students can form a distinct impression of the instructor as “real.”



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