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EDDL 5141 Week 9: Creating Community

This marks my eighth master’s of education course at Thompson Rivers University, and it’s the first time I’ve been part of a group setting. All my previous courses were solitary pursuits, self-paced and discussion-based, but also distinctly impersonal. I hardly knew my instructors, and reaching out to them for help felt like an imposition. Similarly, my classmates were mere screen names on a discussion board, distant and unfamiliar. I attributed this to my choice of format, realizing later that I had underestimated the value of connecting with peers in an online format. That changed with this class. Here, I’ve not only felt supported by my instructor but also formed genuine bonds with my classmates. Emma, Debra, and I gather weekly on Teams, not just to discuss assignments but to share snippets of our lives – from daily happenings to stories about our pets and vacations. It’s all too easy to overlook the human aspect of online learning, forgetting that there are real people on the other side of the screen and I am glad this class has shown me how valuable it can be.

I used to believe that creating the classroom atmosphere was solely the instructor’s responsibility. However, in Vesely et al.’s (2012) article, they emphasize that both the instructor and the students play a crucial role in fostering a learning community. The more I reflected on this, the more I realized its validity, as learning is a collaborative process. It is true that as the leader, the instructor “must encourage supportive, interactive processes where class members can get to know each other, develop social skills with one another, and accept and support each other” (Vesely et al., 2012, p.234). However, the students have just as significant a role in participating, engaging, and reaching out to each other.

How can a collaborative community be nurtured? According to a video from the University of Saskatchewan, fostering student interactions, including commenting on each other’s work, sharing emotions, and discussing areas of understanding and confusion, can mimic a traditional classroom environment (University of Saskatchewan, 2012, 1:10). Parker and Herrington (2015) provide a comprehensive table on page 2 outlining various strategies for building rapport and encouraging emotional expression. What struck me about this table was its focus on instructors. Shouldn’t students also be involved? Why not introduce these strategies to students at the outset of the course or incorporate weekly exercises aimed at developing rapport and emotional expression? Often, educators hoard valuable insights, hoping to single-handedly mold a community. What if we shared this knowledge with our students and collaborated with them transparently? Transitioning from solo efforts to collaborative endeavors is key to fostering a robust, impactful, secure, and engaging community, whether in virtual or physical spaces.


Parker, J., & Herrington, J. (2015). Setting the climate in an authentic online community of learning. Australia Association for Research in Education Conference , 1-12. Retrieved from https://www.aare.edu.au/data/2015_Conference/Full_papers/140_Jenni_Parker.pdf

University of Saskatchewan. (2012). Maintaining community in online courses [Video file]. Source: https://youtu.be/byCIa1Rw7tg CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 CA

Vesely, P., Bloom, L., & Sherlock, J. (2007). Key elements of building online community: Comparing faculty and student perceptions. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(3), 234-246. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no3/vesely.pdf

1 Comment

  1. mharrison

    Hi Hannah,

    Thanks for your post and for your reflections on building community. Your point in response to the Parker and Herrington (2015) table “Shouldn’t students also be involved? ” was a great one…yes – why isn’t the student role in building community more emphasized – and strategies provided, right at the outset of a course? I think they are often there, but still couched in very academic language – or part of a participation grade. I think making this much more explicit, perhaps by modeling early (and perhaps often) would be a good addition to any course. I also think some of the activities that you have all chosen from the equity unbound site awould be a great way to introduce this. I know that many of them probably work well in synchronous settings – but guessing there might be a few that would work well in a more asynchronous style of course as well. As you point out – meeting synchronously, when you can, can really help make connections – but it is always a challenge with working, busy professionals (and in this program can’t be an expectation) – how do you incorporate ways to connect on a more personal level? Lots to think about :).

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