Got Community? 50+ Strategies for Building Community in Online Courses

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This practical session will cover 50+ proven strategies and examples for building a strong, healthy community in online courses so students will feel connected to the instructor, their classmates, and the content. The simplicity of these activities makes them easily adaptable to any course regardless of curriculum, level, or modality.

Sponsored By


Ginger Eppinette is a dedicated educational professional who has attained success in a variety of leadership positions for over 20 years, making it easier for people to teach, learn, network, experience, engage, and operate. She currently serves as the Director of the Office of Teaching & Learning and a Learning and Development Specialist at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Her roles there include assisting with the assessment, development, and implementation of learner-centered curriculum, content, and programs aimed at empowering and equipping global students toward learning success; acting as a curriculum and learning experience advocate for students for quality curriculum, content, and instruction; and working with faculty to successfully implement academic pedagogical principles and technology-enhanced learning into courses. Ginger taught elementary school for 6 years before earning a Masters in Educational Technology and moving into district-level instructional technology and professional development roles. She has written and administered several federal and state grants providing technology for classrooms, and she has designed, organized, and implemented professional development classes and programs in Louisiana, Illinois, and California.

Extended Abstract

Is it possible to build and foster connections, relationships, and community in online courses? Spoiler alert: YES!

A frequently raised concern about online education is a lack of community in comparison to traditional, face-to-face classes where connections naturally occur simply by students sitting next to one another in class, staying after class to talk with the instructor or teaching assistant, gathering with classmates during a break, or stopping by the instructor’s office to ask questions.

But there’s no reason you can’t have a strong sense of community in an online course too! In fact, research shows that online courses often have a healthier community than courses in other modalities because everyone, including the introvert in the back corner, has the comfort and availability to participate, speak, and ask questions.

When you actively help create community in an online course, you are not only building a better course for your students but also providing a well-rounded learning experience for them, which in turn increases student retention for your school.

But you do have to be intentional! You can easily add to your course many strategies and activities that will build community, help everyone to get to know one another, and foster course engagement so that students feels connected to the instructor, to their classmates, and to the course content.

I’ve created a list of more than 50 strategies and activities that I’ve successfully used in my courses or that I’ve seen used in other courses. They are highly effective for building strong relational connection in your class. The simplicity of many of these activities makes it easy for you to adapt them to any course, regardless of the topic, curriculum, level, or modality.

Participants will share their successful community-building strategies in a think/pair/share activity, in which they will reflect individually on their current courses or projects and consider how they might incorporate at least one new strategy, then they will share their thoughts with a partner, and then volunteer to share their ideas with the whole group. Time will also be given at the end to ask questions. The presentation and takeaways will be shared with all attendees.

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the differences in building community in face-to-face courses versus online courses.
  • Discuss the importance of being intentional about adding activities that enables students to feel connected to the instructor, to their classmates, and to the course content.
  • Share five strategies that build connection and community in online courses.
  • Reflect on what was learned and how to apply it to a specific online course.