Building an Online Classroom

As you get started building your classroom online, use these tips to help you establish a safe, interactive environment for all students to learn.

Activities and Resources for Communication


News & Announcements

In general, a forum or messaging tool is a great place to put any news or announcements. Using tools that allow students and parents to subscribe to postings is the best way to inform everyone in an efficient manner.

Questions and Answers

Another great use of forums is to set-up a question and answer area. This allows everyone subscribed to post questions or help answer questions as a community of learners.

Single Activities or Reflection Forums

Forums can also be used to elicit discussions around central topics, provide a place for reflection, or to share learning between multiple learners. This type of tool can replace the discussion rich conversations that happen in an in-person group discussion.

For younger students, use tools that allow video or audio capture so they can share without the need to be well-versed in the written form of communication. (Check out VoiceThread)

Synchronous Meetings

Video/Audio Meeting Tools

Video/Audio online meeting tools provide a way for educators and learners meet at the same time from wherever they may be. Many tools also include additional tools, like drawing tools, screen capturing tools, and breakout rooms, that create the atmosphere of a classroom. These types of tools deliver essential person-to-person interaction between teacher to student and students to students.

Shared Calendars

The shared calendar is essential to keeping everyone on track and engaged in learning. Creating a shared calendar with due-dates and reminders is key to good communication in an online environment. There are multiple tools that allow you to build shared calendars. Most LMS systems will have a calendar system with a subscription service, you can also use Google Calendars for this purpose.

Activities and Resources for Curriculum and Content

Using or creating content that is both engaging and interactive is vital to keep students progressing toward learning objectives. There are a variety of resource that are already developed that can be used, from Khan Academy to YouTube to OER courses or textbooks. While finding resources might not be a problem, understanding how to best organize them in a cohesive manner might be an area of struggle.

Learning Management Systems are a great tool for this task. Most have years of input from the education community about tools and best practices. They offer the essential tools to help you organize and efficiently conduct your online classroom.

Assessment in the online environment may be different than in a physical classroom, but can offer advantages. The tools we have for quick assessments allow us to know exactly where each student is in their learning. Online assessment tools also typically allow for instant feedback to students. These are very helpful when doing quick checks or to use to personalize curriculum for each learner. There are many prepackaged assessments that can be used, and many LMS systems now integrate with these types of tools using the LTI framework to gather grades and assessment data.

Activities and Resources for Interactivity

Activities and tools that help encourage learners to engage with content, resources and each other are a vital part in an online classroom. They are necessary to build that sense of a learning community.

Online Learning Communities

Forums are a great way to build asynchronous communication. There are a variety of tools to do this task. Many LMS systems have forums built into their platform, but there are many other outside tools that may help bridge the distance gap. VoiceThread is an example of a forum that allows participants to use video, audio or text or all three in their communication within a thread.

Helpful Resources for Building Online Communities

Collaborative Wikis and Blogs

There are a variety of tools that allow for a community of learners to collectively build learning together. A great example of this could be building a collective study guide using a wiki, or Book Talks using a blogging tool.

Online Meetings

There are many tools out there that allow synchronous communication and even allow others to view each other using video. From Google Hangouts to Zoom to BigBlueButton, many of these tools will work within an LMS system to allow scheduling, whiteboard tools, recording, and even breakout rooms for small discussions.

Other Opportunities Online

There are a variety of other opportunities available in the online environment from online field trips, virtual labs, and even problem-based and personalized learning. If you would like inspiration or help developing any of these types of experiences for students, please feel free to contact cmERDC.

Sheilla Rindahl, cmERDC

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