Not only can the web bring together students from around the world or give students access to teachers who reside elsewhere; it can also create unique learning communities within the same town. These kinds of projects, called “community-connected learning,” connect students with people from outside the school in online endeavors with real-world impact.

A project might link high school students with police officers who explain how Fourth Amendment laws affect their daily crime-prevention efforts, for example. Or, business executives might mentor students who wish to start micro-businesses while still teenagers.

The directors of a web site that supports the creation of these community programs (http://www.co-nect.com) have compiled an eight-step approach to building projects that will change students’ perspectives and impact their lives:

1. Start with a student-driven idea based on a real need.

2. Create a comprehensive outline of the project and the types of partnerships that will be needed.

3. Visit potential partners at their places of business to present your idea.

4. Once interested partners have been found, set up a meeting with all stakeholders, including parents, school administrators, students, etc.

5. Make the start of the project a highly public event.

6. Ensure that interest in the project is maintained.

7. Incorporate some type of assessment during the project.

8. Celebrate the project’s completion and write a report.