Creating a Welcoming Community Online

Card Type: Technology
Difficulty: Beginner
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Description

A welcoming community is an important component in online learning environments, as it allows students to learn through social negotiation (asking and answering questions, showing empathy and concern, etc).

Purpose

  • Create a community of learners who are connected to each other, as well as to the instructor.
  • Create opportunities for student-to-student interactions.
  • “Break the ice” and get communications flowing.

Procedure/How-to

  • Consult with your campus technology support group for details on how to make both informational pages and discussion groups or blogs within your campus learning management system or preferred website builder (Google Sites, WordPress, Weebly, etc.).
  • Create a welcome page on your course website to orient students to your course layout and expectations. Give students clear instructions for seeking help if needed.
  • Create a page on your course website about yourself. Include a picture or short video and post details of your academic interests and research focus, along with personal interests.
  • Consider using a tool such as a discussion board or blog and have students introduce themselves and explain what they hope to gain from taking the class, along with personal their interests.
  • Consider making a separate “Coffee Shop” or “Class Lounge” discussion area for students to talk about non-course topics (and encourage them to stay on topic in course discussions).
  • Consider using a variety of “icebreaker” games to spice up the introduction process.
  • Two Lies and A Truth Have students say two interesting things and one lie (example: I climbed to the top of Mount Hood; I once drove the President to the airport; I’m a certified black belt in karate). All students vote to determine which interesting thing is a lie. The student with the most incorrect votes wins.
  • Childhood DreamAsk students to share their childhood dreams (what they wanted to be or do when they grew up) and then ask them to find two other students, one with a similar dream and one with a very different dream, and discuss why they have or have not pursued that dream.
  • Famous Encounters Set up a discussion prompt such as: Who is your favorite musician, why, and what would you say if you met him or her today? Find one other person who has a similar person you’d like to meet and come up with another question or topic you’d want to discuss with that person, or find someone who chose a person you dislike and explain why.

Considerations

  • It is easy for “introduce yourself” activities to get stale for both instructors and students. Mix it up with a variety of activity types.
  • For online activities, up-front netiquette expectations and active moderation are important.

Level

  • Beginner

Resources

David Schlater

Working in technology at the University of Idaho located in Moscow, Idaho. Interested in distance education, course management systems, and cloud technologies.

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