Schools are so much more than places where students learn and teachers teach. They are organic, lively places where children make friends, discover themselves and master new skills. There’s a unique dynamic accompanying every cohort of students that fosters nuanced communities built on trust and participation.
Thankfully, community doesn’t take place exclusively in a physical classroom. As more students participate in blended learning environments, there are still plenty of opportunities for community engagement. A learning management system like Brightspace can serve as the bridge between virtual and physical communities.
What Is the Role of Community in School Education?
Communities enrich the lives of all those who are part of them. In schools, that includes students, teachers, parents and learning partners, to name a few. Each of these stakeholders plays a key role in the development and maintenance of community in education. A sense of community makes students feel safe, welcome and wanted, allowing them to take risks and explore new ideas.
A learning community promotes and values learning as an ongoing, active, collaborative process with dynamic dialogue between all members. A 2018 peer-reviewed article published by The Education Resources Information Center noted that “teachers who create caring classroom cultures improve the overall educational experiences of learners.” The same article found that students who learn in “positive classroom environments” make better decisions and are more motivated to learn.
Some of the other benefits of classroom community include:
- more collaborative leadership opportunities, as students can take on responsibilities that match the skills they have and those they want to grow
- improved learning practices where discussions can center on learning needs, continuously improving instructional strategies and enhancing school procedures
- inherently inclusive environments that provide members with equitable opportunities to voice their opinions and views
So how do you create a sense of classroom community? In today’s blended learning environment, Brightspace can help support classroom communities.
3 Ways to Create a Learning Community for Students Using Brightspace
With many tools to cultivate a classroom community that includes teachers and students, Brightspace can make creating and maintaining classroom communities easy.
1. Encouraging Discussions
Teachers can foster their classroom communities by building conversation into assignments using the Discussions tool. This can create an environment where community members achieve common goals as they work toward a shared purpose. Students can ask questions and give feedback to one another while teachers encourage teamwork, collaboration and community building.
Discussions encourage users to share their thoughts with their peers. Teachers can use forums and topics so students can ask questions and discuss course content and assignments. They can also make some topics exclusive to certain users, which is helpful for students who are working on group assignments together.
Brightspace enables educators to track how often students are participating in discussions and allows them to assign grades accordingly. This incentivizes students to be active participants in their classes, broadening their reach and encouraging strong relationships among more of their peers.
2. Implementing Groups
Students can collaborate with one another thanks to the Groups tool. This also encourages teamwork, relationships and interpersonal skill-building. These skills help craft a sense of trust and companionship among students, who feel a sense of belonging when they’re involved in something big together.
Work areas can also help users organize their work on projects and assignments. These groups can be as specific or as broad as a class needs; they can range from project groups to special-interest discussions. Each group can have its own assignments, while the members of each group can be graded individually or together.
Teachers can create groups in which students can self-enroll, allowing some freedom for students to work with friends. Educators can also assign groups, ensuring students engage with those outside of their immediate circles.
3. Communicating With Photo and Video
Students love to hear from their teachers. Educators can use the Video Note tool to give students feedback and praise, bringing a personal element to their digital classroom and allowing students to build real connections with their teachers through video. Video notes ensure that students take feedback and comments to heart, knowing that what they’re receiving is personalized and specific to them.
Video Note can also be integrated with other tools in Brightspace. Teachers can use videos in announcements, content and feedback. It can even be used with other community-building tools like Discussions—for example, students can introduce themselves using videos—to encourage communication and interaction between both teachers and students. Videos created with this tool automatically generate closed captions, ensuring equal access to all students.
Photo tools are also beneficial for classroom communities, especially for early learners. The Portfolio tool allows younger students to document their accomplishments and to tell stories using photos. When shared, these can encourage students to get to know one another and find common interests. These tools also allow parents and guardians to easily follow their child’s learning growth, enabling topical and specific discussions relevant to a student’s learning.
With these tools at your disposal, you can help create a thriving learning community. Encouraging interaction among students can have long-term positive results, while building personal connections between teachers and students helps learners feel heard and cared for. Brightspace can be the bridge between physical and virtual learning spaces, encouraging strong, inclusive communities no matter when and where students are learning.