Building Learning Communities in the Classroom and with Faculty - O'Donnell Learn

Building Learning Communities in the Classroom and with Faculty

Published by Brett Christie, PhD
on Feb 09, 2021

In our latest webinar, “Building Learning Communities in the Classroom and with Faculty”, O’Donnell Learn Founder and CEO, Carrie O’Donnell, and I offer practical ideas and examples for helping students take their learning to the next level through connection and community. We’re also passionate about cultivating professional learning communities among faculty and offer ways to develop this critical support to overall faculty satisfaction.

Fostering Community in the Classroom

Benefits of fostering student community” word cloud created by webinar participants using the free online tool, AnswerGarden.

While the benefits are numerous, at the heart of fostering community is realizing the full potential of learning and positively impacting student success and retention. 

However, fostering community among students requires faculty to tap into their academic and emotional sides. Community is grounded connection and shared experiences. Examining learning from all three learning domains (cognitive, affective, psychomotor) sets the baseline for building community in the classroom. 

This means there is an intentionality to building community. From the first day, it’s important to

  • Model vulnerability and openness with students by creating a welcoming environment
  • Give students permission to not be perfect
  • And provide multiple means of expression so each student can find their best individual fit
  • At the same time, set norms and practices to help create structure for the class.

What does building community look like in action? In the video clip below, Carries shares specific tactics for cultivating community as part of the learning experience. [11:27-13:40]

Building community outside the classroom is also as critical to student success. High Impact Practices (HIPs) are excellent for creating community across campus, and have been shown to improve the quality of a student’s experience, learning retention and success, particularly for underserved student populations. 

Developing Professional Learning Communities

Professional Learning Communities can take many forms around a variety of topics or cohorts. 

Professional learning communities (PLCs) empower faculty to engage collaboratively around professional development. PLCs are focused on enhancing or innovating learning. They are most effective when peer-led, organized around a clear sense of purpose and autonomy, with 8-12 multi-disciplinary faculty participating.. The environment is safe, open and conducive for sharing expertise, experience, challenges and successes – without an administrative presence.

PLCs offer faculty unique benefits they might not have elsewhere on or off campus:

  • Provide the time, space, support and recognition to learn and grow
  • Create camaraderie and room to commiserate (sharing struggles vs. venting)
  • Organize around intra- or interdisciplinary outcomes
  • Advance individual or collective efforts
  • Prop up Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
  • Offer recognition from campus or accrediting body.

The community aspect of sharing experiences and collectively working toward common goals expands and deepens professional development that could not otherwise happen alone.

What does it take to build a professional learning community? I share some specific considerations in the video clip below. [32:47-38:33]

You can watch the webinar in full here.  [Runtime: 50:20 mins.]

O’Donnell Learn Webinar: Building Learning Communities in the Classroom and with Faculty from O’Donnell Learn on Vimeo.

Our next Webinar, “4 Ways to Use Peer Learning to Increase Learner Engagement“, is Wednesday, 2/17/21 at 12 pm EST. We hope to see you there! Register easily here.


4 Ways to Use Peer Learning to Increase Learner Engagement

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Feb 22, 2021

Peer learning has long been shown to increase student knowledge over lecture-dominant methodologies, particularly when unpacking and understanding difficult concepts. Think about conversations in your everyday life. How dialogue among your peers helped you gain new knowledge and examine different points of view. The same can be true for the classroom. Not only is peer learning effective among students, it is especially well-suited for the virtual environment. The beauty of peer learning is it brings small groups of students together to effectively collaborate, communicate and think in both critical and creative ways. Additionally, fostering peer learning inside the classroom naturally encourages sustained dialogue and authentic learning outside the classroom.

Hope for Navigating Mental Illness in Online Learning: Connection, Community & Compassion

Published By Cathryn Mattimore
on Feb 12, 2021

Learning to navigate mental illness challenges as a higher ed student is something that especially resonates with me. I’m currently working towards a Master’s degree in eLearning and Learning Design while managing a significant mental illness that can be debilitating. Aside from my own experience, I’ve seen the prevalence of mental illness amongst my peers, particularly since the start of COVID.

The WOW Factor: Creating Faculty Development That Sparks Interest and Envy

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 19, 2021

Imagine our surprise last summer when we reached out to 475 faculty and learned the online courses for nearly half were simply mirrors of their face-to-face instruction. In fact, only 22% were designing their courses differently for online. With all of the faculty development around online learning being offered, why weren’t more faculty designing courses specifically for this type of instruction? As it turns out, faculty weren’t engaging with development options at a level you might expect given COVID-19 and the rapid shift to online learning. Something we’d also learned in surveys and interviews with170 provosts and academic leaders a year earlier. The solution? The WOW Factor.