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The Great Challenge: Building a Sense of Community During Distance Learning

The Covid-19 crisis proved to be such an unprecedented time. We no longer function as efficiently as we did before. From the way we live to how we work, everything underwent dramatic changes. Even the way our youngsters learn was modified from the traditional classroom setting to distance learning.

The crisis made educational institutions close their doors and open their online classrooms. As students try hard to focus on their studies while staying at home, many learners experience isolation and stress. They can no longer learn in real life with their peers and often only see their classmates and professors on the screen.

Distance Learning and Isolation

Some students can’t thrive in traditional classroom settings. Others prefer learning at their own pace and their own space. The buzzing classrooms stress them out and distract them from enjoying the perks of learning.

But because of the pandemic, most learners have to say goodbye to their classrooms and are now studying remotely. This meant classes are held remotely while students are given learning tasks at home, with their exams being mostly online.

As learners shelter in place, many who are not used to distance learning find it hard to cope. They fail to concentrate on their lessons due to the entirely different distractions found in their own homes. Others find themselves feeling lonelier, which inevitably impacts their learning experience.

Many students feel lonely and isolated while being in online classrooms. They can no longer interact with other students, which was an effortless task like before. They can no longer hang out with friends between classes, engage in group activities, or talk to their teachers and professors in real life.

All these changes made many students face loneliness. It is crucial teachers and professors do what it takes to build a sense of community even as some learners continue to learn at a distance. The problem is that many don’t know how to get started.

Community Building in Distance Learning Environments

We use different tech tools in distance learning. There is no reason not to use the same technology to build that sense of community among students trying to learn remotely. Here are four strategies that can help.

Build a Functional Community Website

What better way to help isolated learners feel they belong to a community they can trust than by providing them with an online community that does just that? Your regular website may not be the best option as this is likely to look too professional and boring your for learner’s taste. What you need is to invest in a reliable online platform to aid community building according to your learner’s needs.

For instance, your educational institution caters to students from the K-12. You will need to make the site engaging enough to entice your learners to visit the website and use it to interact with teachers and other students while making sure their data are well-protected.

Community websites are safe places that can help members feel engaged. Here, you can push notifications about the important news that concerns the students, allow them to engage in meaningful discussions, and share beliefs at the same time. Learners can feel that sense of community if given a chance to communicate, interact, and engage with other learners in a safe environment.

Exercise the Art of Listening

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Teachers and professors need to understand that distance learning is nowhere the same as traditional learning. Students can no longer wait for class to finish just, so they can ask you a question or raise a concern personally. Some students won’t be too comfortable doing this with the whole class listening.

So make sure you let every one of your students know that you welcome questions, suggestions, or inquiries during and after online classes. Offer a means of open communication to communicate with you and you alone. Be sure to do your part by listening attentively and understanding their needs without broadcasting who raised an issue.

Provide Optional Synchronous Class Meetings

Students need to feel that they belong in your class, even if it essentially feels like they are now learning on their own. You can do this by creating group projects and ensuring students interact with their classmates. You can schedule a video conference with the class divided into groups and each respective member having the ability to interact among themselves.

With today’s technology, you can opt to record these meetings for the sake of those who failed to attend. This will make each student not feel left out. Don’t forget to leave clear instructions and feedback to your students.

Many learners face unique challenges while in distance learning. One of these is feeling lonely and isolated. By helping build a sense of community, you can help your students thrive while they learn from a distance and make the learning experience more memorable.



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