Module 4: The Virtual Classroom as a Learning Community


Download transcript [PDF] | Watch the ~1-minute video Module 4: Introduction [Video].

When you meet students at a classroom on campus, many of the visual, emotional and practical components of the community are already built into the space. We know that we’ll find books at the library, we know we’ll hold seminars in specific rooms equipped for our needs, and we understand that we share the space physically with one another. For the most part, the guidelines of our community are known without us doing a whole lot. But when we’re teaching and learning online, a lot of that set dressing needs to get thought of ahead of time and specifically articulated. Your online course might not have the benefit of years’ worth of iteration informing its guidelines and values. Thinking critically about the ways in which you’ll facilitate your course in a virtual space means you’ll be able to establish a positive, communicative and welcoming atmosphere from the get-go.

Learning Outcomes

The resources and learning activities included here are intended to support the following learning outcomes:

  • Co-create guidelines and expectations for engagement.
  • Select and implement tools and features to enhance student engagement and interaction.
  • Engage students in both authentic individual-focused work and authentic community-based collaborative projects.
  • Establish and maintain accessible and sustainable teacher presence in an online course.
  • Create and maintain safe spaces for collaboration and expression.
  • Establish a community comfortable with exchanging information and ideas, and participating in a social learning experience.

Guiding Questions

  • Are you offering your learners an opportunity to co-create their learning experience?
  • Are you identifying the shared values of your community in an empathetic way?
  • Does your community facilitate your learners’ own intrinsic motivations?
  • Do the tools you use in your course serve the goals and objectives of the course?
  • Do the tools make things more or less accessible for your learners?
  • Will the tools increase expression (with other learners, with the content itself)?
  • Does your course facilitate organic social interactions?
  • How do you plan to establish your own presence as an instructor?
  • Will the course create opportunities for authentic, cognitive convergence?


  • Create a set of rules for your community using TRIZ
  • Analyze a tool or piece of software while considering the unique needs of your course
  • Reflect on the kind of social environment you wish to facilitate
  • Reflect on your own past feelings of teaching presence
  • Create your own Community of Inquiry Venn-diagram

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Community of Inquiry
  • Convergence
  • Social Presence, Teaching Presence, Cognitive Presence
  • Engagement
  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Communication
  • Co-creation
  • Community
  • Facilitation


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Designing and Developing High-Quality Student-Centred Online/Hybrid Learning Experiences Copyright © 2022 by Seneca College; Humber College; Kenjgewin Teg; Trent University; and Nipissing University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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