One of the trickiest aspects of online courses is building a sense of community. You cannot wave a wand and have a sense of community magically happen. It takes the right kind of support. But is it worth the effort?
A sense of community is vital to motivate online learners to attend class and for instructors to feel invested. Learners feel they belong and their input matters. Instructors see the learners as individuals who value their expertise. A sense of community also provides an emotional support network. The course subject may be intimidating or complex. Having a friendly group of peers to ask questions can greatly improve a learner’s chance of success.
However, online courses do not fit the traditional definition of a community. After all, members of an e-course can be thousands of miles apart. To help navigate this new idea of community, here is a step-by-step guide:
Provide Communication Training
Online interactions require different skills than attending or facilitating a face-to-face class. Instructors who have most of their experience teaching face-to-face courses may feel lost when it comes to building a rapport with online learners. On the other hand, instructors who are more comfortable communicating with technology may benefit from learning a few tips themselves.
Provide the Right Tools
Learning management systems offer a variety of ways for instructors to communicate with learners, and for learners to communicate with each other. In addition, video conferencing applications come with different features. A survey of instructors or department heads will identify how instructors want to communicate with learners and how they expect learners to interact with each other. After analyzing the results, compare learning management systems and video conferencing applications to find the best match.
Provide Tech Support
An e-course cannot take place if an instructor runs into a technology issue. Live tech support for live classes is imperative. Not only will the course be uninterrupted, but so will the building of the online community.
Ask for Feedback
Give instructors or department heads a chance to reflect on what has gone well and what needs to be improved. Building a sense of community relies on many moving parts. Feedback may uncover a deficiency in one area that can easily be improved.
Building community in online courses improves learners’ and instructors’ morale. They each feel valued; they each want to contribute and participate. Though creating such a community takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work, the results are worth it. And building online courses with a sense of community is easier than pulling a rabbit out of a hat.