Building Community in Online Classes

The online classroom can sometimes be a lonely space for students, as online classes don’t have those natural spaces for connecting with classmates that an in-person class does (those few minutes before class begins, breaks in the coffee lineup, the moments in the hallway immediately after class).

Creating opportunities for students to meet, interact with and build trust with their peers has to be a much more intentional act in the online classroom. But it’s an investment that yields big dividends. Many studies have shown that students tend to demonstrate both deeper and more sustained learning in classes where they feel a strong connection to both their instructor and classmates. The ideas below will give you some ideas for how to develop these opportunities for connection in various online settings.

Icebreakers + Getting to Know You Activities

  • purpose of icebreakers and Icebreaker glossary
  • approaches to introductions
  • interviews
  • favourite place / object activities
  • weather reports

Pair or small group activities

  • purpose of breaking students into smaller groups
  • breakout room discussions
  • group activities on Miro, Jamboard or other collaboration software
  • small group forum discussions, where students read and respond to a smaller number of students on a regular or rotating basis

Temperature Checks

  • purpose of temperature checks
  • thumbs up / thumbs down activities
  • renaming self with emotion words (combined with favourite food or fashion trend)
  • putting emotion words in the chat

Group Agreements

  • purpose of group agreements in creating classroom community and link to group agreements section