Many instructors have voiced their concern about the lack of community that forms in their online classrooms. The first step to overcoming any on-going challenge is isolating the biggest issues. To determine this, we asked thousands of students and instructors about the biggest struggles to creating a strong online community.

Online community issues

We asked instructors, “What are the biggest struggles to relating with classmates in online courses?” We provided them with several options and ask them to choose all that are problems for them.

  • Fifty-nine percent of instructors say that one main struggle is simply that “Students join online courses for flexibility and a grade, not community.”
  • Fifty-three percent of instructors say another struggle is that there is “No opportunity to meet in person.”
  • Thirty-two percent say “Students don’t care about developing relationships.”

We asked college students the same question: “What are the biggest struggles to relating with classmates in online courses?”

  • Fifty-two percent of students reported that one main struggle is simply that “Students join online courses for flexibility and a grade, not community.”
  • Forty-six percent of students say another struggle is that there is “No opportunity to meet in person.”
  • Thirty-five percent say “Students don’t care about developing relationships.”

Overcoming the skepticism

It looks like students and instructors are on the very same page when it comes to the top three issues. And it seems as though there may inherently be less intent from students to build community. According to recent post, “Benefits of Building Community in an Online Course,” there are indeed some proven benefits to building strong community 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. … [Students’] next top concern is preparing for their future careers, where they may need to use online communication skills with colleagues.

To prevent students from getting the wrong idea of online classes right off the bat, explain to them the level of communication you hope to achieve in the course. Share with them the many benefits of taking the time to make introduttions as well as having thoughtful interactions throughout the duration of the course.

What are your biggest struggles when it comes to building community in the classroom? Share your ideas below.