Adventures of a Technology Challenged Online Instructor

Creating Community in My Online Course (Week 7)
Creating Community in My Online Course (Week 7) avatar

I’ve written several times about how I think I create community in my online class and where I feel I’m still lacking.  I definitely think it’s always a “work in progress” and I’m narrowing down various tools I want to include in my online course to help build this sense of community for students.  Pilar’s video gave me a few great ideas of things I’ve wanted to try, but I haven’t had exposure to the technology before.  I am definitely going to play around with Eyejot and Jing and try to start including these in my online courses.

So what am I doing to create community?  Right now I send weekly email and audio annoucements to students just updating them on what they accomplished the previous week and what’s in store for them during the upcoming week.  My students do participate in discussion topics each week (although entirely text-based).  They are required to respond to at least one fellow student in each discussion topic.  I’m thinking I may increase that to responding to 2-3 fellow students.  There’s nothing like creating forced comminuty, right?  Pilar had also mentioned the idea of sending out an email the week prior to the course starting.  I recently started doing this and have noticed there are a lot fewer questions from students during the first week because those logistical questions were answered before the course started.

Regarding Twitter, Facebook, and other ways to communicate outside of the standard CMS….

I’m not a fan of Twitter.  I’ve tried it and just can’t get into it.  I actually surveyed my students a couple of semesters ago regarding having a class Facebook page or getting Twitter updates, and they were not at all interested in it.  I was really surprised by this!  They didn’t want their “school work” to interefere with their personal life on Facebook and most didn’t use Twitter.  Most of my students currently don’t link Blackboard to their Facebook accounts and aren’t interested in doing so.  Anyone else have similar findings?

I also just surveyed my online students last week regarding the audio annoucements I’ve started using.  Most did like having the audio annoucement, but a lot of the comments I got from my online students were that they “prefer to read the information anyway.”  I was very surprised by those comments.  Here I am trying to find ways to build community and include various forms of delivery to my students and approximately 30% of them really are just happy with reading the text-based annoucements and not having to deal with audio or video.  That got me to thinking about the types of students who may be taking online courses.  There are those who just don’t have the time to take a face-to-face class due to family or work commitments, those who think online courses will be easier (and we all know that’s not true!), and then those who maybe don’t want to have to “deal” with the classroom setting and the interaction with fellow students.  So I think that providing information in various formats to accomodate everyone’s needs is important.  One student did respond that he/she would like to have access to an online “chatting” option with me instead of just emailing back and forth.

So my questions to all of you are:

1)  What have you found to be the most successful way to strengthen community in your classes (online or face-to-face)?

2)  What is your favorite way to communicate with your students online?  (Email, audio feedback, video chat?)

I want to narrow down options for my class and would really like to know what you’ve all found to be successful for you and your students.



7 Responses to “Creating Community in My Online Course (Week 7)
Creating Community in My Online Course (Week 7) avatar

  1. Avatar Lisa M Lane says:

    Yes, indeed, I find many students uninterested in combining academic work and their social life. We used to call this the “creepy treehouse” effect, like adults showing up at the kids’ treehouse. Nevertheless, I have found a Facebook group effective for them to ask questions about the class, since they are already on FB and it’s easy.

  2. Avatar Daniele Arnaud says:

    1) What have you found to be the most successful way to strengthen community in your classes (online or face-to-face)?:

    So far, the face-to-face has been working better for me. I teach a hybrid class using some basic technology such as Blackboard (required by our school) and other online tools for tests and so on. Not all students look at their e-mails and even less what is going on in the class with Blackboard so to remedy to this problem, the face-to-face is still the best for me. But again it is not an online class so I am “saved” by the face-to-face to strengthen the feeling of community.
    Now the Facebook tool that Lisa Lane is talking about above could be the answer to strengthen our vital community. I might try that! I did not even think of that….

  3. Avatar Sou Lackkaty says:

    I really appreciate your comments on how students are interested in having twitter or facebook for school purposes. I think that makes total sense. I guess social media tools can be categorized into serious business stuff, school stuff, personal stuff, and the other stuff. Thanks for the insight.

  4. Avatar Sou Lackkaty says:

    Sorry, I meant to say NOT interested.

  5. Avatar M. Conrey says:

    So if you include Facebook (or Twitter) in a class, do you make it a requirement for all students to participate? I like the idea of having a Facebook page for my class – especially to link current news events, etc. But I could see that I would spend a lot of time and energy of Facebook, and if only 25% of students would use it, would it really be worth my time?

  6. Avatar Norm Wright says:

    I mentioned in my blog post that I tried Facebook in an online course. Student reaction was mixed as far as the discussion groups; some students liked it and others didn’t. I also used it post occasional announcements and reminders, and the students liked that. This was all for on ground class though, maybe online would be different.

  7. Avatar Rachele DeMeo says:

    For communicating online, I like using email and Skype when needed. I’ve had students take verbal quizzes online using Skype which I found very effective. I was able to give feedback right away and they saw I was a “real” person–not a computer. 😉