The traditional teaching model has changed indefinitely, and there is no guarantee of when students and teachers can resume the full classroom teaching model again. With social distancing measures put in place in response to the dangers of the Coronavirus pandemic, most teaching has moved to the virtual space, through online lectures and video calls. As a result, schools and universities risk losing their personal touch and trusting bonds with students who have grown up accustomed to the physical presence of their teacher.
Research has shown that dropout rates are often 10-20% higher in distance education courses than in traditional courses. Much of this has been attributed to the fact that separation has a tendency to reduce the sense of community, giving rise to feelings of disconnection, isolation, distraction, and lack of personal attention, which could affect student persistence in distance education courses or programmes.
In order to increase students’ levels of satisfaction and the likelihood of persisting in an academic course, institutions must place larger emphasis on community spirit through developing relationships with other members of the learning community.
Despite the barriers posed by not being able to gather in large groups, it is still possible to harness a sense of belonging to boost engagement with schools and universities through virtual measures. If institutions fail to adopt stronger tactics that promote membership to the academic community across the virtual space, not only will they risk losing massive proportion of prospective leads, but they will also see unprecedented dropout rates in the years to come.
Methods of building a sense of community through distanced learning has been outlined by Alfred Rovai through the following dimensions.
The dimension of spirit recognises membership in a community and the feelings of friendship, cohesion, and bonding that develop among learners as they enjoy one another and look forward to time spent together.
Schools and universities can help develop a feeling of connectedness through the effective use of online tools, such as social media, to encourage conversation and simulate on-campus community spirit.
A great example of social media being used by a university to promote community spirit is the University of Nottingham promoting the use of the hashtag #WeAreUoN for their online graduation day. Using this hashtag, the university encouraged graduating students to share their celebrations on social media, connecting students, professors, and alumni together from their homes.
Trust, the second dimension, is the feeling that community members can be trusted and represents a willingness to rely on other members of the community. To foster trust, institutions need to establish credibility so that students feel like they can rely on their learning community.
Cultivating trust requires teachers, lecturers and management teams to provide top quality online resources, such as recorded lectures, detailed slides and up-to-date reading, to minimise concerns that standards will be compromised in the new remote learning environment.
Learner interaction is an essential element of, but not the full solution to, the development of a sense of community. In the physical classroom environment, students rely on social cues to establish friendships and facilitate greater group participation.
Two types of group functions to be mindful of are:
- functions related to the work
- functions related to building and maintaining the learning community.
Learning platforms or course management systems must be fully optimised to allow for effective interactions between students and teachers, enabling submission of answers and detailed feedback.
In building a sense of community for students, institutions should look to invest in online tools, such as direct messaging and forums as they enable a constant flow of communication and keeps all members of the learning community engaged with each other.
The online overhaul of the educational space means that institutions must adapt their communication strategies to continue to build meaningful relationships with their students, as well as provide effective tools that promote cohesiveness within the student community. Institutions that fail to do so will struggle to maintain strong reputations in the Covid-19 era.
Proodle appreciates that in order to stay on top of the game, we must move forward with the dynamism of technology and customise digital content that the current generation of students can easily engage with.
What Proodle Solutions offers is an innovative and secure personalised mobile platform for the potential student, which introduces institutions and programmes in a whole new way to make an everlasting impression. We help students understand what a university is about, their requirements, the application process and notify them on the latest social events.
If you would like to know more about how Proodle can digitally influence your international recruitment efforts, email us at [email protected] or give us a call on +447776557159