Creating an Online Community
There's no doubt distance or blended learning environments offer countless benefits. Travel time is reduced for all, learning can be completely asynchronous (in which each student learns at his or her own pace, in his or her own time), and material can potentially be reviewed countless times. Nevertheless, the one caveat I repeatedly face with online learning is the loss of community.
What does "loss of community" mean?
The learners aren't able to network and bond like they would if they saw each other in person regularly. Additionally, the learners often don't feel as connected to their instructor either. There is a total "loss of community" among the class.
So, how do I address this issue?
Well, to start, I utilize tech tools. I particularly like FlipGrid.
I've used Flipgrid with both kids and adults. It's fairly easy to use--even for those who aren't tech savvy--and even has an app for phones or tablets.
Flipgrid provides a board where learners record themselves. Teachers or facilitators can set a time limit for recordings (recommended, as it helps learners synthesize info and shortens grading/review time) and provide a question or prompt. Learners can reply to each other and comment on each other's videos, as well as add fun stickers.
By using Flipgrid, learners actually see and hear each other regularly. They can include their pets or kids in the video, so everyone is able to see the person beyond the name on the screen. It just adds a little personal touch to the online learning environment.
Another tool I use to create community in the online classroom is Padlet.
Padlet provides a virtual bulletin board-like space where students can share resources, links, videos, music, documents, etc. Not only does it provide a place where students could potentially hear or see each other, it also provides a place where learners can bring things they want to share to the class. It's a great way of collaborating, and many discussions start with the resources or items that appear on the board.
The last tool I recommend you use is Poll Everywhere.
Poll Everywhere allows you to get live responses from your students. You can use Poll Everywhere to create a game, form a word cloud, or just learn about learners' opinions. It adds a fun element to learning, allows the learner to see their voice being heard (though not literally), and is a great way of incorporating some interactivity into online learning.
If you're interested in these tools but need some help getting started, reach out to me! I'm happy to help. I have many other tools I'll share with you in future posts, so stay tuned!