ON DEMAND: Five Small Changes to Build and Foster Community in Your Online Course


  • Darlene Smucny




Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students learning online at a distance (whether synchronously or asynchronously) often reported feeling isolated from other learners and from their instructors. By making small changes in your online course, you can help your students feel more connected with one another & with you (as instructor). You also can foster their emotional connections with course content, class materials and activities. Creating and fostering community in your online course enhances learner engagement, improves motivation, and leads to better learning (Udermann, 2019). Using the “Small Teaching” approach (Lang 2016; Darby & Lang, 2019), I will share 5 small changes which can be easily implemented right now in your online teaching and also incorporated in your plans for future online courses. By creating community in your course, you facilitate equitable and inclusive learning environment for all learners online (Darby 2020). The tips presented may be applied to synchronous and asynchronous online teaching; undergraduate and graduate-level classes, majors and non-majors courses; and modified for all disciplines.

• Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand.
• Darby, F. (2020). 6 Quick Ways to Be More Inclusive in a Virtual Classroom. The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, 2020. (Retrieved April 21, 2021).
• Lang, J. M. (2016). Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass.
• Udermann, B. (2019). 7 Indispensable Strategies to Build Community in Your Online Courses. Magna Online Seminars.






2021 On Demand Pre-recorded Presentation