Building a Classroom Community Online

Many instructors feel online learning does not offer the same opportunities or benefits as a traditional classroom. In some ways, these instructors are correct. Though online learning offers more flexibility for students and instructors, it also provides new challenges. That being said, if instructors know how to overcome these challenges, online learning can be as good as, if not better than, traditional learning in a classroom.

One of the biggest challenges faced by instructors of online courses is establishing a classroom community. Students and the instructor do not see or hear each other regularly, and therefore do not feel as if they know each other. The lack of community can affect students’ performance in the course, their motivation to finish the course, and their course evaluations of the instructor.

Nevertheless, there are many useful tech tools that can help instructors establish this sense of community, whether they are teaching an online or hybrid course. These apps could even be used in the event of adverse weather that requires class be cancelled!

Some of these tech tools are:



FlipGrid is a free tool allow instructors to post questions to a grid, set time limits for responses, and even give feedback within the tool. Students respond using videos recorded from their webcams. FlipGrid allows students to see and hear each other, providing a space for a virtual classroom discussion.

Tip to Try:

Use FlipGrid to have your students respond to their reading. If you are in a traditional classroom, play some of the FlipGrid response in class. If you are in an online or hybrid class, or if your traditional class is cancelled, use FlipGrid to recreate a class discussion.



Voicethread is limited in what it allows for free, but if you are a paid user or if your campus provides the service you can take advantage of the many ways you can use this tool. Meredith students, staff, & employees can access VoiceThread inside or outside of Brightspace. You can sign in on the main My Meredith portal pages.

Make a VoiceThread by uploading images, videos, PowerPoint slides, etc. to the thread.

Participants can comment on the media using text, voice, or video. If a participant doesn’t have a microphone, they can even have Voicethread call them on their phone!

Instructors and students can also draw on images and videos while they are commenting, making Voicethread more interactive and able to replace worksheets. Lastly, instructors can enable comment moderation, which means students will not be able to see each other’s comments—useful if Voicethread is being used as an assessment!

Tip to Try:

Use Voicethread to give a group assessment. Have your students work together to answer questions or give virtual presentations.



Padlet is a virtual bulletin board that allows multimedia posts. Instructors can invite students to add content, comment, like and make edits to the board. Students can post photos, documents, web links, video, and music, in addition to text. Padlet is a great way of collaborating collect and share information and resources. Furthermore, it can simulate a class discussion in which students note their thoughts or related resources.

Tip to Try:

Use jigsaw grouping and have each group research the answer a different question. Have them post resources that led them to their answer. All of the answers/resources will be in one place, making it easy for the groups to learn from each other’s work.

If you’d like more assistance creating a classroom community in an online space, contact the Meredith College IDAT team.

1 thought on “Building a Classroom Community Online”

  1. Pingback: New Year, New Course: a Series on Course Redesign | Instructional Design That Works

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