Building Community in the Online Learning Environment Using Canvas LMS

As online learning becomes more and more accessible, so does the possibility of a more isolated educational experience. Building community, especially in theological education, is essential to student learning. 

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It is important that the online environment be just as welcoming, hospitable, and supportive for online students as it is in the in-person classroom. A well-designed Canvas course can not only provide students with the tools and resources necessary to succeed academically, but it can also foster a sense of community and connection in the online classroom. 

Here are some tips for making your Canvas course an inviting and hospitable space for your students: 

  1. Personalize the homepage: Personalizing the look and feel of your Canvas course can help create a more welcoming space for students. Consider adding a header image, your learning goals for the course, and a way to contact you should students need any assistance. The homepage is also a great and accessible location for your syllabus file! 
  1. Encourage Interaction: Encouraging interactions among students is key to building community through Canvas. Consider using a discussion board as a way for students to introduce themselves before the class begins or to share what they are most excited to learn about after seeing the syllabus. 
  1. Make content accessible: Providing clear and concise explanations of course materials and expectations is key. Try using videos, images, and other multimedia content in addition to text to make the content more engaging and accessible. 
  1. Use a consistent and organized layout: Consistency and organization can help create a sense of familiarity and comfort in the online space. Consider using a standardized template for your course content and ensuring that the navigation is intuitive and easy to use. For example, use the same format in every module so that students know what to expect and where to find necessary information about the next class. 

By following these tips, you can help to create an online learning environment that is inviting and welcoming to all students. With an intentional and well-designed Canvas course, students will be able to: (1) focus more on their studies and less on finding course content and information; (2) communicate with each other both in and outside of the live class session; and (3) feel prepared to succeed in your course because the information is readily available and accessible. 

Contact the Office of Digital Learning at CandlerDigitalLearning [at] emory [dot] edu for more information on how to set up your Canvas site as an inviting and hospitable place for student learning. 

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