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If You Build a Successful Classroom Community: Students Will Prosper

Fern Entrekin (University of Phoenix, USA)
Session Information
July 7, 2015 - 4:30pm
Faculty Development & Student Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Innovation and Experimentation
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Plaza Court 2
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Concurrent Session 3

How exactly do you build community? Learn tips for building and keeping a sense of community at the beginning and though out the semester.

Extended Abstract

Promoting a sense of community in the classroom is a key to student success. Students want to feel a sense of community with their classmates and instructor and research has shown students do better when they share relationships within the classroom. Creating opportunities for shared experiences can occur through out the semester, in both the online and face-to-face environment. The objective of this workshop is to introduce strategies that have been successful in building community in blended classrooms.

Fern Entrekin has been a student in blended classes at Nova South Eastern University in Florida, and designed, and delivered blended classes for East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. She also developed assessment for blended high school classes at the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania. She currently works as a subject matter expert in educational technology. She also teaches online for University of Phoenix, where she practices building community in all of her classes.

The skills learned in this workshop will benefit all traditional, distance, and blended instructors. We will look at strategies for building community in the beginning, middle, and end of a course. Strategies that can be used in classes that initially meet face-to-face, and strategies for classes that initially meet online will be introduced. Guidelines for supporting students in creating relationships through discussions and collaborative projects will be examined. Examples of successful online and face-to-face end of the course community building projects will also be shared.

Technology has provided us with the tools we need to support building community in our classrooms. Workshop participants will participant in a Google map activity as they enter the workshop. When students can see on a map where their classmates live, it changes how they see the members of their class.

First day strategies for a blended class, will include content focused chats, and share a biography and picture. In content focused chats students answer specific questions in discussion as they watch a video. In the face to face classroom, using computers, they work in groups of three to five, introducing themselves and discussing the video. In share a biography and picture, students introduce themselves online, and share a picture they have resized. Providing specific questions to answer in the share a biography activity makes it easier for students to respond. Since students have met, or will meet, face-to-face in a blended classroom, asking them to share a picture of their favorite food is a good way to make connections.

Strategies for promoting community during the semester include online discussion and collaborative projects. Students get to know each other through online discussions. Structuring online discussions, so students are asked to share a real world example supports classmates in seeing each other in a context other then print on a screen. Connections are made when students can identify with anothers professional examples. In a wiki, set up for the conference, discussion threads, that model community building, will be set up for workshop participants to post in.

Collaborative projects that build community should be systemic and start with only two to three students. Collaboration is challenging, but when correctly structured can support students in forming relationships that go beyond the classroom. Collaborative activities should be experiential, and only part of a bigger picture. For example, a team of two students prepares a lecture with questions. They prepare the lecture as one activity, and then facilitate a class discussion, based on the lecture, in another activity.

End of the semester activities that build community in blended classrooms can also serve as assessment. For example in a blended class for OSHA safety training, students completed the online modules and then were presented with an actual scenario where they had to correctly move a heavy box off of a wounded student and move the student. Days later students were still boosting how they had saved their classmate.

Building community through shared experiences benefits all students. When students feel a sense of community in a classroom they participate more often and participation leads to better grades.

A wiki site for If You Build a Successful Classroom Community

Lead Presenter

In 2009 I retired as a technology facilitator at the largest residential K-12 school in the United States, the Milton Hershey School. My passion is educational technology and I have been involved in the field since 1987. My doctoral degree is in Instructional Technology and Distance Learning from Nova Southeastern University (NSU), where I took blended and online courses. My masters degree, in Instructional Technology, is from West Chester University in Pennsylvania where I also taught undergraduate courses.