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A student perspective

Consider the student perspective on building a sense of community.
It’s really important to feel part of the learning community and particularly when online, it’s something that I didn’t think was actually that important and didn’t realise until I was studying how much of an impact it makes. I mean, at the beginning it was very challenging online, to get that community and people would, I would say people were scared to speak up. There was a worry of talking over each other, particularly if the cameras were off which they were in this particular course. It did make it challenging and we sort of had to get used to it.
I mean we tried using hand raising functions but unfortunately our tutor had some technology difficulties which made that difficult for her to see, so, sometimes you did have to interrupt. Which at the beginning made people feel nervous and but as we sort of did more group work, we got talking to each other again and that sense of community came back. It was something that we had lost a little bit at the start. The tutors did actually a really good job of bringing us back together by doing icebreakers even though we’ve been studying together for years.
Actually having that little bit of welcome, ‘how are you’, hearing each other’s positive news was actually really nice and congratulating each other on house moves and weddings when they happened and all these different things that was exciting and nice to get that back. We had forum on Teams as well where we could add articles we found that would support with with assignments. They were really helpful as a way of collaborating and sharing useful articles and information. If any of us were stuck we didn’t always ask in the online classes, we could use that forum to say ‘does anyone know about this?’
or we could ask each other informally like if we wanted to do one-on-one with students we’d got closer to and worked well with. So that was a nice way to get in touch and as well it’s just great having them spaces to actually communicate with each other where you don’t necessarily need to speak out loud because that could be very nerve-wracking, particularly online and I think it actually makes a big difference as someone with a lot of nerves going into my first class, I was very quiet and very shy whereas when well, actually, when we went online I was the same.
It was like I had lost the confidence I’d grew, but as tutors encouraged us to start collaborating more as a group we actually managed to bring that back and it was like that shyness had just gone again and it was a lovely way to work with others. We also had the difficulty of doing group work that was actually assignments online so having to present as a group work together as a group online, which came with its challenges but actually we worked really well together and we managed to collaborate in an online forum and I think I would have struggled without that to actually get progress with my degree.
My point on that would be how it wasn’t just about the live sessions. Communicating, collaborating, it was throughout the module so it would be between not just the tutors but also the students. The tutors could go ‘oh here’s this article that might be useful for your assignment, that might give you help, if you need a one-to-one here’s some slots that I’m available’ or it could be a student.
I know myself, I came across some really useful articles which I posted on the it was on a shared team site So ‘I found this it might be useful for you throughout your article’ if anyone has anything else that they’ve found, whether it’s a model an article or just a useful bit of information.
It was also used as a forum for our for our student rep to say ‘if anyone has any feedback I’m going to a meeting’, things like that and it was just lovely to have that informal space that could be used to talk on a sort of a non-student avenue, just as a hello avenue but also actually ‘I found this article you might find it useful have you found anything yourselves?’ and just sharing, collaborating but just having that community spirit really.

Having reflected on your own teaching practice in the previous task, let’s now consider the student perspective on building a sense of community.

Your task

Watch the video in which Nikki, a part-time undergraduate degree student, shares her views on the importance and impact of developing a sense of community when studying online.
Then, share your reactions to the video in the comments section.
You might want to reflect on some of the following prompts:
  • What surprised you, if anything, and why?
  • Do Nikki’s views mirror or differ from those of your own students? How?
  • As a student yourself, what do you expect your tutors to do to create a sense of community?
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Exploring Teaching and Assessment for Higher Education

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