Creating a Community in an Online Course

February 10, 2024 7 By Sarah Clarke

For my prototype, I created a recovery course for students who have previously failed Math 10 Workplace and Apprenticeship. My course design is completely online (except for exams), and students work at their own pace through the modules (asynchronously). You might wonder why I choose to go asynchronously, especially for a math class. Well, it wasn’t my first choice…

Originally, I tried to think of how I could “blend” my course with synchronous meetings because I know it is important to be “present” with my students, whether it is through Zoom or in-person.  However, I had to be realistic regarding my current job and coaching expectations at the school I work at. In my school division, we only get one prep a year and mine is usually in the first semester because I coach fall sports. I am predicting my course will run in the second semester after the first round of Math 10WA students have taken their face-to-face class with an instructor. For those students who fail this course, they will need an opportunity to recover their credit in the second semester (this is where my online course comes in). Since I will be teaching full-time in the second semester, I am only available to meet with students before school, during lunch, and after school (until Track & Field starts up in the spring). Because of my schedule, I chose to create an asynchronous online course.

After watching the videos and reading the articles/blogs from this weeks tasks, I am inspired to find ways to encourage students to engage with one another and build a sense of community in an online learning environment. As Michael Wesch suggests in the second video, you should try to “humanize your online class” and “build relationships” with your students. He does this by videoing positive shout-outs to students in his courses, getting on camera so his students see that he is human while creating memorable (and unique) learning experiences for them to view (cycling and giving a lecture). Kudos to him… I’m not sure if I can do that while teaching math, but I’m willing to try and be more creative! His suggestions challenged me to think of ways I can be more “present” for my students asynchronously.

To build community in an online course, I need to figure out a way my students can communicate.


Similar to our course (EC&I 834), I will have students join Discord. This app is free, easily accessible to any device, and is user-friendly.  Students can take pictures of their work and send directly to the instructor (me), or share in a group chat with other students in the class to verify their work has been done correctly. Depending on the number of students I have in my course (which is unknown at the time), I can set up discussion channels and prompt my students to engage with one another. If I only have one student in my course, this app still provides them an opportunity to ask me questions when they need some additional instruction.


The videos and articles from this week highly suggest meeting in real-time with your students. This will be tricky for me if I am teaching 5 classes during the day. Instead of finding a time to meet during instructional hours, I will encourage students to meet me in the library Wednesdays at lunch for 15-20 minutes (during math tutorial). This way, they will have an opportunity to meet me in-person and ask me questions for clarity/guidance, or just to visit! And everyone needs to eat, so I can bring my lunch upstairs with me and be available to my online learners. Note: this will be completely optional for the students.


To establish social pressure, I will use FlipGrid to connect with my students (on video). This forces me to get on camera more often and humanize my online learning environment. I’m sure the students will appreciate watching videos of me explaining details for certain assignments or providing additional instructions for a specific question I want them to work on.

I love FlipGrid and used it a lot when I taught grade 8. The students don’t always enjoy videoing themselves (they mentioned this to me a lot when we used this app), but they can always adjust their camera angle and video themselves working through a question on paper instead. It will still create a personal touch to hear their voices and/or watch them actively problem-solve. FlipGrid is an appropriate tool to use for my online class because I can pre-record video(s) on my own schedule and have students share their replies asynchronously as well.

What guidelines or assessment practices will I adopt to ensure that interactions are meaningful, supportive, engaging, and relevant?

This is a great question… I am not sure how many people will be registered for my online class until it starts up. I could have six students, or I could end up with one student who failed the course semester 1. If I only have one student, well then… they are stuck watching videos of me and texting/sending pictures to me on the Discord app. I am not the most interesting person in the world, but I will do my best to give that one student as much support as I can! If I only had one student in my course, I could still create an online assignment component (for marks) in my course breakdown. This would be for x% (haven’t decided yet) of their overall marks in my course.

The online assignment component would include: sending assignments through FlipGrid, Google Classroom (our main LMS) and/or Discord throughout the course. Students would be prompted each week (similar to our class right now) with a simple task. It could be as simple as sending a picture of their work on Discord to view or sharing a video through FlipGrid of different questions from the workbook. This would encourage my student(s) to be prepared to share their learning with me (instructor) or with others students, and keep them motivated to stay up-to-date with coursework. By sending out different prompts, it would give my learners an opportunity to touch base each week and I can see how things are going.

All my ideas sound good in writing, but how will they actually work in real-time? I’m not exactly sure.

The problem I foresee with my class design is that students may be working on modules at different paces. Note: I hope to have all 7 modules for my Math 10WA course up and running by next year. I’m not sure how to change my class structure without adding pressure for students to complete modules at the same pace.

Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!