Ways to Build Community in Online Classrooms

« Back  |  

Keep online school students and families engaged 

An essential part of learning is the interaction that happens when students have the opportunity to connect with their peers and with their teacher. Effective online learning—especially in the formative elementary years—requires finding ways to make these interactions a reality. Let’s look at four ways ASU Prep Digital builds community and keeps students and families engaged.  

Parent involvement

Families are a critical component to the success of any learning program, even more so in the virtual learning environment. At a brick-and-mortar school, you may not hear from your child’s teachers after parent/teacher conferences unless your child is struggling in a class. In online schools, there are many opportunities for parent and family involvement.

One idea is to create training courses for parents. Emily Mulvihill, M.Ed., online elementary school assistant principal, shared how ASU Prep Digital created sessions for families to help keep them engaged and support their children with digital learning. Based on feedback from parents, Family University consisted of two different professional development sessions a week. From offering tips on how to help students navigate assessments in a virtual environment to time management to building growth-mindset in students, they share many ways to support online students.

Mulvihill, a 15-year education veteran, the last 10 with digital learning, said, “Family University was another way to give families a voice and connect with one another—it provided a way where they may have not met with one another.”

Set aside time to build community

Socialization is very important, especially in the digital environment. ASU knows it may take a minute or two for a student to warm up, so they have built time into the day to socialize. In fact, elementary students spend the first hour of each day in what’s known as huddle time. Recognizing the importance of building community, teachers have reserved that hour for students to share stories, review academic content, play games, and engage in emotional/social activities. LSC Homeroom, typically held weekly, is another opportunity. Academic in nature, it’s a time to read stories, have group discussion, or hear from a guest speaker.

Mulvihill said teachers hold virtual holiday parties and other community building events that support the calendar year where students engage in activities such as crafts for Mother’s Day. “We’ve hosted a cultural diversity day where students are invited to speak to their different backgrounds and tell their story. They have fun while learning and building relationships,” she said. 

Learning Success Coach

Each student at ASU Prep Digital is assigned a Learning Success Coach. The Learning Success Coach gets to know the student’s needs and learning style, establishes individualized short- and long-term goals, and works closely with the child’s teachers and family. Communication among coaches, students, and families is frequent, regardless of whether the student is excelling or needs a little extra help. This personalized approach is another way of creating a community of support.  

Clubs and pods

ASU Prep Digital offers a variety of online clubs for students to join. From STEM, Chess Club, Spanish, Art, and more, students have many opportunities to engage outside of the classroom in interests. There are even occasions to gather in person at community events, such as prom. This year, ASU Prep Digital is piloting pods where parents lead the location oriented and organized pod and plan regional virtual or in-person family/student meetups or study sessions.  

“We are always looking for ways to connect students in and out of the classroom,” said Mulvihill. “We take seriously the social-emotional aspect of our students’ lives as it helps develop them academically as well.”

Partner with ASU Prep Digital

ASU Prep Digital is an accredited online K-12 school providing districts with single online courses, full-time virtual programs, innovative learning recovery solutions, and professional development options. We would love to collaborate and develop a customized program for your school’s needs. For information about partnering with ASU Prep Digital, please email partnership@asuprep.org.