Relationships are the foundation of learning. When students feel connected to their teacher and their peers, they’re more likely to thrive. How can teachers forge these connections within a remote learning environment?

For education consultant Lainie Rowell, that’s the central question facing educators as they’ve moved instruction entirely online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cultivating a community of learners is critical,” says Rowell, an author and international speaker who facilitates professional learning for the Orange County, Calif., Department of Education’s Institute for Leadership Development.

Related content: Here’s the biggest mistake educators are making with remote learning

Building community has always been important for educators. In an online learning environment, where teachers and students aren’t face to face every day, it’s even more critical for success. If students don’t feel like a valued and important member of a community of learners, then they aren’t as likely to engage in lessons remotely.

Rowell hosts a podcast called “Lemonade Learning” with fellow educator and consultant Brianna Hodges. Based on ideas they discussed in their podcast and that Rowell shared in an interview, here are five effective strategies for building a community of learners online.

Five ways to build a community of learners online

Engage students in norm-setting.

Just like they would in a face-to-face setting, teachers have to establish ground rules for acceptable behavior in learning online. Involving students in this process helps build a sense of community.

Dennis Pierce
About the Author:

Dennis Pierce

The former editor of eSchool News, Dennis Pierce is now a freelance writer. He has spent the last 20 years as an education journalist covering issues such as national policy, school reform, and educational technology. Dennis has taught high school English, math, and SAT prep. He graduated cum laude from Yale University. He welcomes comments at dennisp@eschoolmedia.com.


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