You’ve made the plan, and you’ve done the work of building an online course experience for your students. Now is a good time to make sure that your students’ experiences are centered in your courses. If you haven’t already, consider where you can ask your students to provide feedback, offer insights, or otherwise be present in your courses. This semester especially requires us to make sure that students feel that there are other, caring, dedicated people in their courses.

Creating a community of learners online

Creating structured opportunities for students to learn from each other is a way to harness students’ intrinsic motivation.

  • Create engagement activities for students to investigate topics within the course according to their own interests. This could be creating a shared reading or watch list in Google Docs or Sheets, keeping track of current news stories on a course-related topic, or creating a course hashtag for students to tag relevant items on Twitter or Instagram. 
  • Make a dedicated discussion board just for these learning community discussions. Consider topics such as: Representations of X in Film or Television, Topic X in the Media, or Creative interpretations of X… This can help vary how students participate in the discussion boards, rather than always having structured prompts for discussion. You can also encourage students to suggest their own discussion board topics related to course concepts.
  • Encourage off-line engagement and reflections about its impact on student learning. Ask students to consider where (and how) they think about course ideas when they are not at their computers. Do they get their best paper ideas on a run? Do they feel more comfortable writing out notes by hand? Are they cooking or eating foods that evoke course ideas or rely on scientific principles explored in the course? Sharing some of these reflections (either as part of a Zoom discussion session, in a later discussion post, or even in a collaborative google doc) can help students build a sense of community away from their computers.

Content inspired by Rob Talbert blog

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