OPTION 1: Identify and select strategies for building community and student engagement in my online course (1-2 hours)

This pictures shows a hexagon to represent structure.To build community among your online learners, you must be familiar with some of  the many different tools and resources that are available. This option takes a practical approach by introducing you to some of the resources available, organizing them under three phases of community building, and asking you to experiment with some of them. Designed for those who need some quick ideas and  strategies for building lasting community in an online course, this option is grounded in the understanding that community building is an essential factor to ensure student engagement (Liu et al., 2007; Anderson, 2017; Redmond et al., 2018).


Read through the guiding questions.

Time: 1 – 2 hours depending on your level of engagement.

Guiding Questions

  • What are strategies for community building in an online course?
  • How can I use or adapt strategies for my own online course? 
  • When and where can one use community building strategies in online courses?
  • What kinds of strategies will be most effective for my own course?
  • Which strategies most closely align with my own teaching philosophy?



While there are multiple possible ways to categorize community building strategies, this module conceptualizes online community building in three phases and draws inspiration from work done by Beth Cougler Blom (2016). In the graphic below, click on the points to learn more about the different strategies found in each of three phases. As you read through the strategies, consider which ones align best with your own teaching style. Click on the check marks for more information (10 minutes).

Note that this interactive infographic was made using H5P. Learn more about H5P here.


Watch this interview (interactive video — 20 minutes) where scholar and online educator, Dr. Maha Bali, describes her concept of intentionally equitable hospitality and discusses strategies for building community in online classrooms. You will be asked to answer questions at intervals throughout the video. As you watch  keep the guiding questions in mind:

  • How can I use or adapt these strategies for my own online course? 
  • What kinds of strategies will be most effective for my own course?
  • Which strategies most closely align with my own teaching philosophy?


*Note that this YouTube video was made interactive by using H5P. Learn more about H5P here.

Quick tips for community building online

Activity: Collaborative Community Building Resource


This activity is designed to allow you to investigate different strategies for community building and share a useful resource. Completing this activity will allow you to engage in community building yourself as you share resources with peers to build a collaborative tool, and as you give and receive peer feedback. This activity is an example of something that you can easily recreate in your own course.

Click here to begin the activity and share your resources with your peers.

Extension activity:

  • Create a community building activity for your online course and share it in the module discussion forum for peer feedback here.
  • Ensure that this activity aligns with one of the phases (Welcoming, Nurturing, or Wrapping up) listed in the three phases model above.
  • For example, you may want to create an introductions discussion forum, or a collaborative bulletin board where students can share resources like the one in the activity above. 


Anderson, T. (2017, September). How communities of inquiry drive teaching and learning in the digital age. Contact North. https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/insights-online-learning/2018-02-27/how-communities-inquiry-drive-teaching-and-learning-digital-age

Bali, M. (2020, March 30). How Technology Can Bring People Together. Accessed on April 1, 2020 on https://youtu.be/p5vegjqbQtc

Cougler Blom, B. (2016, March 1). Online Facilitation – Skills & Strategies. https://oer.royalroads.ca/moodle/pluginfile.php/1501/mod_page/content/74/Online%20Facilitation%20Skills%20and%20Strategies.pdf

Liu, X., Magjuka, R.J., Bonk, C.J. & Lee, S.h. (2007). Does sense of community matter? An examination of participants’ perceptions of building learning communities in online courses. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 8(1), 9-24.

Redmond, P., Heffernan, A., Abawi, L., Brown, A., & Henderson, R. (2018). An online engagement framework for higher education. Online Learning, 22(1), 183-204. doi:10.24059/olj.v22i1.1175

Smalkoski, K, Burtain, L., and Spicer, S. (2017, August 16). Using digital storytelling to transform learning. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/views/2017/08/16/using-digital-storytelling-transform-learning


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Fit for Online Learning Copyright © 2020 by U of L Teaching Centre: Jördis Weilandt, Erin Reid, Kristi Thomas, Brandy Old, and Jeff Meadows is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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