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Building community among students and between the students and instructor is essential to develop trust and a good working relationship. It doesn’t matter if you are teaching a traditional course or an online course, students need to feel that they are a part of the class community. These seven steps may help you embrace new ideas for developing such a community in your classroom.


A wiki is a web site that allows for easy creation and editing by several users. Setting up a wiki in your class allows students to collaborate and share information. Topics vary for such wikis and are dependent on your course content or are used to allow students to get to know each other. For example, you may ask students to create a wiki that provides information under the headings: 1) What We Have in Common and 2) Our Individual Differences. As students enter and edit the information on the web page, they learn more about each other and begin the community building process.

Wiki for Student Reports

Wiki for Student Reports

2. Blogs

A blog is an online journal where users can share information similar to writing in their diary. The blog can be public or private which determines who can read the journal.

To develop community between faculty and students, a private journal may be used so that students feel comfortable saying things to the faculty (i.e., Billy is not working well in our group, I am having a difficult time with the project, etc.) knowing that others cannot read the comments.

A blog can also be used effectively to allow students to interact in a more public environment as they share their ideas and provide commentary about a particular topic.

Blog for Private Journals

Blog for Private Journals

3. Blackboard

Blackboard provides several tools for building community. Two have been discussed above (wikis and blogs); however, others include the discussion board and chat area. The discussion board can be used to develop threaded discussions and provide an area for frequently asked questions that other students can answers. As students assist each other in answering their questions, they feel important and needed as a viable part of the community. The chat area provides student a place to go to discuss assignments, projects, and/or personal information.

More information about these and other useful Blackboard tools can be found here.

4. Audio and Video Feedback

Providing feedback to students (whether formative or summative) should be viewed as a learning process for the students. Many students are used to listening and watching videos and they also learn well using these senses. Jing, Camtasia, Captivate and Adobe Connect Professional are a few examples of software that allow you to provide audio and video feedback to your students. For example, you can open a document submitted by a student, record the screen with your mouse movements (i.e., track changes, highlighting, inking, etc.), and record your voice. Students can then see and hear your feedback. Students can then determine not only what they did wrong, but why it is wrong or how it can be done better. This type of feedback is more in-depth and assists in the learning process.

5. Classroom Response Systems

Pausing within a lecture to ask conceptual questions during class, having students discuss their answers in small groups, and providing feedback to the students builds community. This becomes increasingly difficult as class size increases. Classroom response systems (clickers) can help.

A classroom response system is an instructional technology tool that promotes active learning in the classroom. Components of the system are a proprietary software application that is installed on the facilitator’s computer, a wireless receiver, and hand-held transmitters, which resemble a television remote control. The transmitters allow students to respond to multiple-choice or yes/no questions by pressing a button that corresponds to the intended answer.

Answers are recorded and analyzed and can be displayed on the facilitator’s computer screen. By doing this students have opportunities to work with new material and with each other, and faculty can collect immediate student feedback.

More information about classroom response systems can be found here.

Benefits for Large Classes

Benefits for Large Classes

Additional Resources
Using Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasting

Using Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasting

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