Continue to build a sense of community

Lego building blocks

The sense of being connected to each other and to the course team is the social ‘glue’ which helps keep students engaged with their learning. It is more challenging to create the feeling of community in online environments, and students have told us that they are struggling to make friends and develop connections. However, feeling included and a sense of belonging to their cohort and other groups will be integral to their learning and wider support networks.

The following two simple activities replicate some of the usual informal social spaces that students would experience if they were on campus. They also encourage students to make positive connections to the course team and each other in an informal low stakes environment.

Essential activities:

  • Introduce weekly informal course level Teams events, such as ‘Community Cafes’ – break down large groups into smaller breakout channels, groups of 4 – 6 people is comfortable number for informal conversation.
  • Add, or set aside, 10 minutes at the end of Teams sessions and encourage students to use the opportunity to ask questions, say hi, or chat informally with staff and/or each other.

Further ideas and resources:

These informal, social connections will help students build confidence, and hopefully promote their engagement in the more formal live Teams sessions. Student feedback has been generally very positive about the use of Teams. However, a key issue many staff have experienced has been getting students to participate when they are in Teams sessions. This guidance on increasing engagement in Teams helps you reflect on the issues surrounding turning cameras on, and the following ideas and resources suggest the ‘baby-steps’ towards students signalling their presence and interacting. There is a student resource about communicating in online classes which you could make students aware of in PAT tutorials or within My Studies.


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