In a campus environment, fostering a sense of community is easy and somewhat natural due to participation in class assignments. Discussions, group projects, and presentations allow students to become familiar with each other. In addition, an impromptu invite to lunch, tea, or coffee after class is a common way for on-campus students to forge friendships, alliances, and develop close connections with other students in their classes.
Developing community ties in online degree programs can be difficult, as students do not get the chance to meet in person, but it is definitely not impossible. It takes some extra effort along with strategies that differ from those used in an on-campus environment. However, it can certainly be achieved. Here are some of the methods through which students are developing community ties in an online educational environment.
The best method of promoting community ties involves course discussion boards. About half the instructors regularly assign discussion-board questions that promote student interaction and debate. These discussions are an excellent means of getting students to read and respond to their online classmates’ ideas, discoveries, and opinions.
Another popular method requires online students to post their introductions. Through them, students get the chance to get to know more about their classmates beyond simply knowing that they are in the same course.
Mandatory group exercises and activities also provide a great opportunity for students to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, which leads to more cohesion and bonding as they work together and collaborate on these activities and exercises.
Another method of building community ties at online universities involves arranging real-time meetings; about 15% of class instructors utilize this tool. In addition, some instructors require face-to-face class meetings, while others prefer one-on-one meetings between themselves and each student.