Building Hyper-Bonded Communities in a Virtual Environment and its Relation to Student Persistence

Concurrent Session 8
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Brief Abstract

The online version of a course called Leadership and Communication is offered to new and struggling students at Western Governors University to help students build hyper-bonded communities and influence personal growth within the affective domain. The course was designed to support the university’s goals to increase: first-term retention, second-term retention, course completion, and graduation rates. The guiding principle of the course is that student success starts with both social support and self-reflective awareness, and that these two experiences prepare students to weather the challenges and demands of pursuing a college degree.

Our effective practice and intentional design of the course replicates the most impactful, community-based aspects of the traditional classroom but instead of requiring a brick and mortar classroom, places instructors and students on webcam in a virtual classroom that also utilizes breakout rooms for team time, activities, and one-on-one sharing. We assert that the visual representation of the person on camera allows students to interpret body language, emotions, and other nonverbal indicators that contribute to deeper and more authentic personal connections.

The course uses a blended collaboration of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities that effectively accomplish the course learning objectives while conserving the time and resources of our adult learners, who typically have competing demands.


I grew up in California, but currently reside in Utah. I completed my undergraduate degree in Developmental Psychology at Brigham Young University and completed my Senior Capstone on Victim Offender Mediation. Throughout my capstone, I also worked with local teens in anger management courses and families of the local school district through Truancy Mediation. I completed a my graduate degree, a Masters in Education - Instructional Design, at Western Governors University with a capstone emphasis on increasing employee engagement in Online Environments. I began my career at WGU in 2006 and over the last 2 years I have been responsible for managing the creation and launch of a brand new Leadership and Communication course at the University. The Leadership and Communication course is designed to help under-prepared college students by targeting non-cognitive skills necessary for student success. I enjoy reading, baking, and spending time with my 3 children and husband. We love to take vacations to many different coastal cities and Walt Disney World.