Using Virtual Communities to Build Meaningful Connections Among Students at a Distance
Concurrent Session 4
During a time when students have searched for a greater sense of belonging, Fort Hays State University intentionally created a space where students could build authentic connections. In this session, Dr. Andrew Feldstein will discuss how the community gap was identified and the impact of virtual communities.
When Fort Hays State University’s (FHSU) students reported in a survey last year that they were feeling isolated, unmotivated, and in need of more social interaction, the FHSU team took action. It was clear that the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic was weighing heavily on their students and was likely to impact their ability to succeed. FHSU’s students were reaching out for ways to connect and collaborate with others in ways that weren’t dictated by class assignments or Zoom.
In response, FHSU launched "Tiger to Tiger," a virtual community created by students, for students. Tiger to Tiger is designed to mimic the low-stakes, casual interactions many students take for granted - chatting before or after class, in the hallway, or at the library. The Tiger to Tiger community recreates these spaces for students who are learning at a distance, offering FHSU’s 4,000 in person and 7,000 online, non-traditional, learners the opportunity to connect authentically with each other - many for the first time.
This presentation will focus on the process for designing Tiger to Tiger, the roll out and engagement strategy, and the positive outcomes that the community is having on belonging, connection, and motivation for FHSU’s diverse student body. Audience members will be asked to reflect on their own experiences around changes in student motivation and well being over the past year, and to share what ideas and solutions they have developed to help tackle these challenges.