Do you think it’s possible to build a genuine community experience in an online course? We asked thousands of students and instructors if they think it’s possible to have a strong sense of community in an online classroom and what the benefits are. Discover what students and your peers say are the main benefits of creating community online.

We asked instructors, “Do you think it’s possible to have a strong sense of community in an online class?”

College instructors on online community

The largest portion of instructors, 47% are open-minded towards the concept of an engaged online community, but they haven’t yet experienced it themselves. Forty-four percent say “Yes, and I’ve participated in it.” And 9% of instructors do not believe it is possible. To get the other side of the story, we also asked college students, “Do you think it’s possible to have a strong sense of community in an online class?”

College students on online community

 

While the results were closer, college students are even more apprehensive about community online than instructors. The largest portion of students, 46%, are open-minded towards the concept of an engaged online community, but they haven’t yet experienced it themselves. Forty percent say “Yes, and I’ve participated in it.” And 14% of college students do not believe it is possible.

Benefits of strong online community

To gather further insight on what classrooms stand to gain building community online, we asked students and instructors, “What are the benefits of developing community in your online courses?” We offered a myriad of options, asking them to select every choice that was top of mind for them. Below are the top four responses for instructors and students:

According to instructor respondents:

  • 66% believe one benefit is that students learn more from one another.
  • 58% believe that students develop a more positive attitude towards the course and their classmates.
  • 55% believe students feel freer to share their personal viewpoints, observations, and insights.
  • 51% believe students feel like more than an ID number or a nameless, faceless person.

And according to our college student respondents:

  • 60% believe one benefit is that students learn more from one another.
  • 55% believe students feel freer to share their personal viewpoints, observations, and insights.
  • 45% believe that students develop a more positive attitude towards the course and their classmates.
  • 45% believe this prepares students for careers where it is likely they will need to create working relationships with colleagues online.

Many college students and instructors agree: online community helps students learn from each other, develop positive attitudes towards the class, and makes the environment feel safer for sharing. After these top three, the fourth response differed. While instructors appreciate that online community makes students feel less like an “ID number,” students were not so concerned. Their next top concern is preparing for their future careers, where they may need to use online communication skills with colleagues.

The benefits are endless! For advice on how to build community in your online classroom, visit this week’s post, “Tools and Methods for Building Community in Online Courses.”

If you’ve participated in an online course before, either as an instructor or as a student, how would you rate your community experience? Share your thoughts below.