Using Virtual Communities to Build Meaningful Connections Among Students at a Distance

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session Leadership

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

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.


Dr. Andrew Feldstein is assistant provost for Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies at Fort Hays State University. He leads a team of instructional designers, technologists, and professional development specialists; who collaborate with instructors to create meaningful, engaging and impactful learning experiences. He holds multidimensional responsibilities related to professional development programs for faculty; supporting best practices in teaching, research, and service; innovative instructional design and course development; and the delivery, management, and support of technology focused learning tools and platforms. In the area of professional development he has expanded the use of asynchronous workshops and micro-lessons through the delivery of targeted, and engaging professional development opportunities for busy faculty members. He has also developed new technology enhanced learning tools, offering faculty a choice of strategies for a more interactive and increasing meaningful connection with students.

Additional Authors

Katy is an impact-driven CEO who has spent 20 years creating solutions that extend access to high-quality education for every student. She is the co-founder and CEO of InScribe, an innovative collaboration platform that helps improve student engagement and build community with a focus on supporting non-traditional and underserved student populations. Leveraging her experience and strategic abilities, Katy specializes in ed-tech innovations, student success, and communities of belonging.

Extended Abstract

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.