n: 1. A unified body of individuals; 2. An interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Designing community is a critical cornerstone of quality in online education. A robust online learning community is born in the design phase through preliminary organization and planning, and the authoring of clear community expectations. While meaningful learning can happen outside of a community, the overall learning experience usually benefits from community.

Consider designing the following community-building elements prior to course start:

Build Rapport

  • Create a welcome video introducing yourself and the course.
  • Design a discussion area where you and your learners introduce yourselves.
  • Create a welcome note on the course’s landing page that contains directions and first steps.
    (e.g., read syllabus, review course layout, and introduce yourself in the discussion forums)

Encourage Interaction with Clear Expectations

  • In your syllabus or a similar document, convey to learners the importance of participation and the expectations for their contributions throughout the course.


Tips for Effective
Community Integration

Discussion participation, group work, and peer feedback can be embedded in your course as a learning and assessment tool. Quantify — via grades, digital badges, or other methods — what levels of interactions are necessary to succeed in the course.

  • As part of the design of the various assignments and activities, include opportunities for questions and other types of interaction.
  • Create standalone participating guidelines that provide tips for learners on best practices in interacting.