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September 5, 2021

How To Build A Stronger Community In Your Live Cohort-Based Course

Successful live cohort-based learning is built on a foundation of community.  Participants having a stronger and more enjoyable learning experience when they feel welcomed and connected to one another.   But cultivating this sense of belonging isn’t easy and needs to be done intentionally and consistently. Here are a few tactics to use to foster greater community in your live online classes.

Use A Weekly Discussion Board

Weekly discussion boards allow learners  to interact with both the course creators and each other around issues and ideas that they all care about.  Message boards can be a great way to drive conversation and help everyone get to know one another.

To help increase engagement in the weekly discussion, set the pattern when you open the course.  Have everyone (including you!) use the message board to introduce themselves and post an article, book or some material of interest.  Try and follow a regular content posting calendar and be sure to monitor the discussion, so you can jump in to activate it if it is lagging.  

Regularly Engage With All Your Students

In a traditional teaching setting, engagement generally indexes highly to people who are the most outspoken or comfortable speaking up.   One of the benefits of live online classes is that they allow course creators to be more intentional about being sure to interact with everyone in a way that feels comfortable to them.  This increases the overall sense of a stronger community.  There are many ways to do this.  Set aside office hours during which you can reply to messages and engage with the students. Or schedule one-on-one or group video calls to address issues and provide support. Or make international use of break-out rooms to make sure everyone is being heard and brought into the experience.

Gamify Elements of Your Course

In a traditional classroom, you may give out rewards to top-achieving students or those who have progressed a lot. In your cohort course, you can implement similar ideas.  Consider giving out badges that can appear next to each student’s name or designating creative titles after certain assignments - be creative about fun ways to build a community and use the material in your course.

Create a Safe Space

Creating a safe space in which students can authentically share and discuss ideas is vital to building a sense of community in your cohort course. Before the course even officially starts, send out clear rules and guidelines for what is allowed and what isn’t.

For example, share etiquette rules. State that mean-spirited discussions and replies won’t be tolerated. Ensure you follow through on these rules and have consequences for not adhering to the rules clearly laid out.

Request Student Feedback

Feedback is always a great way to interact with your learning community. You can post open-ended questions in the chat room or discussion board, asking students what they thought of the course in general. You can also ask specific questions, such as what they enjoyed the most and what they thought of a specific assignment.  View feedback requests as a way to open a conversation.  You can also send out post-course emails requesting feedback and ideas for improvement. Ensure you respond to each message and email to show you value feedback.

More Ways To Build A Greater Community In Your Cohort Based Learning Communities:

  • Send out a personalized welcome letter to each student
  • Send out a “getting to know you” questionnaire and share your own filled-in one with the class
  • Use  personalized examples to illustrate ideas

Are you ready to create your online cohort course? Disco has the tools you need to get started. Contact us to find out how we can help you!