Building the Sense of Community in a Blended Class: Is There a Best Way?

Concurrent Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Through lively conversation and digital collaboration via mobile applications, this session will ask attendees to consider how they might help increase peer-peer interaction in blended courses.   Topics include tools, mobile devices, best practices, institutional guidelines or limitations, perceived value, and scenario problem solving.  


Dr. Kelly S. Rippard is a researcher of English and pre-service teacher education, instructional design, curriculum development, problem-based instructional models, technology education, and blended learning. After having a successful career as a secondary and postsecondary English educator as well as an instructional designer and curriculum specialist, Dr. Rippard is currently a lecturer in the department of teaching and learning at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Here she teaches future teachers about educational methods and technology in both traditional and online classrooms.

Extended Abstract

Background and Guiding Question:

As Anderson (2001) and Wenger, Trayner, and de Laat (2011) and many others have pointed out, a peer-peer community or a community of practice (CoP) is important in an online class. One could rationalize that this type of community would also be important to those students enrolled in a blended class where students engage in both a face-to-face environment and an online environment. However, many blended classes may rely on the collaborative technologies provided by their LMS to help students interact with each other (see Best & Conceição, 2017; Smith, Hayes, & Shea, 2017; Miyazoe & Anderson, 2010; or Mortera-Gutiérrez, 2006), which may include threaded discussion boards. Decades of research on threaded discussion boards, however, suggest that this type of interaction may be superficial if careful steps are not taken to make the discussions as active as possible (see Champion & Gunnlaugson, 2017 or Salmon, 2013). This raises the question is there a better way to build the sense of community in a 21st century, blended class?

Session Overview:

This session will begin with the above oral introduction from the session presenter. The session presenter will then pass out a graphic organizer created using Easily, which will list the above guiding question as well as the key points/questions below, including the scenario. During the discussion by each key point/question, the session presenter will use her iPad and the BaiBoard app to write on the infographic and keep track of attendee’s ideas. This will be projected. Attendees will also have access to the page on BaiBoard and can access the collaborative conversation notes after the session ends. At the end of the session, the session presenter will ask attendees to share one idea they want to use via the Lino app to create a shared sticky note corkboard on “Building Community in Blended Classes”.

Key Points/Questions:

·      How can we as faculty and/or instructional designers help to build the sense of community among our students in a blended class?

·      Are there web or mobile tools we can use to assist with this goal?

·      For any of these tools, what are the “best practices” suggestions for faculty to be successful?

·      What types of institutional guidelines or policies may inhibit this type of innovation?

·      What is the long-term value of having students engage in their classroom community?

·      Imagine this scenario: Rosie is a 40-year-old mother of 3 who has decided to pursue her lifelong dream of being a college graduate. She has decided she will take classes in a blended format, meaning the class meets at her local university’s campus throughout pre-determined dates and times throughout the semester. However, most class sessions will be held synchronously online via the university’s LMS. All classes are at night. After the first class session, Rosie realizes she is the oldest student in the class and feels disconnected from her peers. She attends all classes and posts in the required threaded discussion board, but she does not form any relationships with her peers. What can we as faculty do to help students like Rosie feel like they are part of the class’s community? How might technology help?


Best, B., & Conceição, S. C. (2017). Transactional Distance Dialogic Interactions and Student Satisfaction in a Multi-Institutional Blended Learning Environment. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-learning20(1).

Champion, K., & Gunnlaugson, O. (2017). Fostering generative conversation in higher education course discussion boards. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1-9.

Miyazoe, T., & Anderson, T. (2010). Learning outcomes and students' perceptions of online writing: Simultaneous implementation of a forum, blog, and wiki in an EFL blended learning setting. System38(2), 185-199.

Mortera-Gutiérrez, F. (2006). Faculty best practices using blended learning in e-learning and face-to-face instruction. International Journal on ELearning5(3), 313.

Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The key to active online learning. Routledge.

Smith, S. U., Hayes, S., & Shea, P. (2017). A critical review of the use of Wenger's Community of Practice (CoP) theoretical framework in online and blended learning research, 2000-2014. Online Learning21(1).

Wenger, E., Trayner, B., & de Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: A conceptual framework. Heerlen, The Netherlands: Ruud de Moor Centrum, Open University of the Netherlands.