Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

Teaching Tips & Links for SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING

Issue 61 - 7 Indispensable Strategies to Build Community in Your Online Courses

July 16, 2019

Student and teacher interactions are at the core of the learning experience. Building community in the online learning enviroment is a key objective of the Online Learning Model at Charles Sturt University.

Part 3 of our series focusing on Peer Review of Subject Design - Learning Support looks at Dimension 3: Student and Teacher Interactions. The five dimensions of Learning Support that we review in this series are: Subject Site, Student Needs, Student and Teacher Interactions, Flexible and Adaptive Learning, and Knowing the Students.

We have chosen a one-hour video this week that is highly relevant to the topics of student-student and student-teacher interactions that underpin the indicative strategies for this dimension of Learning Support. Brian Udermann presents a seemingly simple list of strategies that present a multitude of options for you to tailor to your own teaching style and context.

This week's topic:

  1. 7 Indispensable Strategies to Build Community in Your Online Courses

  2. Learning Support: Student and Teacher Interactions, indicative strategies

PD Opportunities this week

1. Making Technology Enhancement Effective: What Works? Transforming Assessment webinars resume for 2019 with this post-conference panel session from Assessment in Higher Education Conference. Free Webinar. July 17 17:00 AEST (0700 GMT). Register at http://transformingassessment.com/

2. Magna Publications. During the session break is an ideal time to explore the excellent sources on offer through our subscription to Academic Leader, Magna Commons, Mentor Commons and The Teaching Professor. How to subscribe: There is a single CSU subscription code to access all four of these resources. Staff with a CSU login can obtain the code and subscription instructions from this What's New link. An example of the many resources related to our theme of Learning Support:

How Can I Develop Online Instructor Presence?

See below for this week's Professional Learning opportunities at Charles Sturt University


1. 7 Indispensable Strategies to Build Community in Your Online Courses

By Brian Udermann

Source: https://www.magnalearning.com/learn/video/7-indispensable-strategies-to-build-community-in-your-online-courses?client=magna-mentor-commons

Reading time: 4 minutes (63 minutes for original video)

This webinar with its supporting transcript, slide handout and supplemental material would provide the basis for a great lunchtime workshop for you and a group of colleagues to engage in the activites and reflect on how to implement them in your own practice.

In the introduction, Udermann discusses the common perceptions of benefits and challenges in online interaction, and provides content for reflection on the features of high-functioning communities. A few thought-provoking quotes provide incentives to think about the positive aspects and affordances of the online learning environment:

QUOTE: “In moving from f-2-f to online I wonder if our tendency is sometimes to focus on what we think we might be losing rather than on what we might actually be gaining in the new modality.”

The Seven Strategies

1. You serve as the role model

  • Students notice you – what you do and how you act.
  • From the beginning – the small things add up; response style for student questions; subject engagement with announcements, feedback, online discussion forums – start strong and keep motivation to the end of the subject.
  • Let students know it is a goal – to develop interaction relationships so they can work with you to make it happen; let them know why it is to their advantage.

2. Let students get to know you and each other

  • Introduction/icebreaker activity – rather than the same routine activities, take it up a notch. For example, ask students find an unrealistic claim related to the class plus and share that along with their personal details. Then link their findings to subject content that will be covered (p.8 in the transcript).
  • Students feel like they can relate to you – be more than the content expert. For example, share personal information that you are comfortable to share.
  • Sets the tone from the beginning – set the goal to make students want to come back to take another subject with you.

3. Create a safe subject environment

  • Benefits – this takes some work by the instructor to make this happen so students can be more open, willing to share sensitive information, willing to be challenged by others without being defensive; promotes positive discourse in the online class.
  • Doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements – but strive for the point where students can debate ideas, beliefs, share values, in a respectful, professional and polite way.
  • Deal with inappropriate behaviour immediately – even if it is only marginal; have guidelines provided by you or negotiated with students.

4. Survey student interests

  • Allows you to get to know your students – use student inventory surveys – gives you a bit more information – more common in face-to-face but can be good for online – see sample survey in Supplemental Material, or Google to customise for your own purposes.
  • Types of information gathered – personal, academic information, how they study best, characteristics of good past teachers, goals, career aspirations etc.
  • How information can be used – helps form groups (similar or different interest groups), sets themes for discussion, make better connections with students.

5. Build in opportunities for students to share their knowledge and experiences

  • Underutilised in higher education – identify student out experiences to enhance course interactions and content
  • Appreciate the variety and depth of experience that students bring into the classroom.
  • How could this be used in class? Go beyond just being the person who just dumps content on students and have students take more responsibility for learning – maybe not in all classes but be awake to the opportunities. Listen to the story at 50 min (p. 13).

6. Create social opportunities for students

  • Discussion forum for social use – encourage the students to use them. Kick of with a question or share something to get students interaction – don’t just leave it to students or it may not happen
  • Social media groups (FB, LinkedIn, Twitter) – ongoing with alumni where new students can interact and ask questions of alumni and draw on their experience.
  • Connection to the university – live stream events – athletic, theatre, musical, distinguished speaker, graduation.

7. Build multiple avenues for interaction and engagement

  • Consider these strategies in the subject course design phase – and avoid using too many.
  • Spread throughout the subject – don’t just do it for the first couple of weeks. Change it up very couple of weeks.
  • Peer review, collaborative work online, video conferencing.

The webinar ends with two assertions:

  1. There is no 'one best strategy', which encourages the options for you to explore the strategies and tailor them for your own classes, students, disciplines, preferences and workloads.
  2. Implementing the seven strategies should result in more engaged students, better subject experiences for students and instructors alike, and improved learning.

There is a nine-minute question break at the 32:30 minute mark and another in the last five minutes of the webinar.

The PROFESSIONAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES AND RESOURCES section below has details about how to get FREE access to our Magna Publications quality Learning & Teaching resources subscription.



Learning Communities and Interaction Between Students are two of the seven elements of the Online Learning Model that guides the design of subjects and courses at Charles Sturt University.

The website includes research-based rationales for these elements, practical strategies and scenarios for implementing them and case studies for how these elements have been adopted and incorporated into subjects.

Some of our Teaching Tuesdays@CSU bulletins featured the Online Learning Model and it is worthwhile reviewing both the Model and the articles - Issue 24, Issue 27, Issue 33.

See also the Online Learning information on the Division of Learning and Teaching website.


2. Learning Support: Student and Teacher Interactions, indicative strategies

Source: www.csu.edu.au/division/learning-and-teaching/home/teaching-staff/peer-review

Learning support refers to how the learning environment has been designed to support the learner, with a specific focus on the online environment.

The standards on which the dimensions for Peer Review of Subject Design Practice are based are:

  1. Administrative, technical and learning support details and information are provided.
  2. Student and teacher interactions are designed to support and progress learning.
  3. The design of the online learning environment supports a positive user experience.
  4. The online environment is appropriately designed to support and facilitate learning.

Learning Support, Dimension 3: Student and Teacher Interactions

Indicative strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • Opportunities for student-to-student interaction are evident.
  • There is an explicit introduction to the course, academic teaching team and key staff, including welcome videos, audio recordings and photographs, and explicit acknowledgement and naming of all staff involved in the subject delivery.
  • Positive standards for online interaction are clear and prominent.
  • Teacher photographs or voice snapshots are used throughout the online materials.
  • Timely responses to student online questions and comments.
  • There is structure and support provided to assist students to interact and engage with each other
  • Peer learning and mentoring.
  • Small team work, e.g. group assessment tasks.
  • Smaller sub cohorts within large cohorts facilitated by a tutor who guides community building, provides formative feedback and marks summative assessment tasks.
  • Orientation, socialisation and personalisation of the online environment prior to curriculum focused learning activities.
  • Contribution to a shared resource such as a gallery of photos from professional placement.
  • Social media streams using tools such as Twitter, Instagram or shared bookmarking.
  • Thoughtfully managed communication tone to encourage student participation and agency.


Implementing the CSU Value IMPACTFUL in your teaching.

As a community of impactful professionals we are each thinking about how to best direct our efforts to secure results for our students and our communities.


Follow Teaching Tuesdays on Twitter.
Our Twitter feed includes links to further hints, tips and resources in the broader field of teaching in higher education.


Charles Sturt Ed 2019 early notice

This year's Charles Sturt Ed conference, Working together for student success, will be held on 20-22 November on the Wagga Campus. This will be an opportunity to discuss learning and teaching in the context of our Student Strategy which is part of the University Strategy 2017-2022. The main themes for the Charles Sturt Ed 2019 conference are:

  • Student-centred courses, teaching, services and culture
  • Quality learning and teaching
  • Innovative learning environments



1....Teaching support resources at CSU
2....CSU Professional Learning
3....Bonus CSU resource - Lynda.com

4....Magna Publications Subscriptions
5....Links to previous bulletins


1. Teaching support resources at CSU

You have access to a range of quality CSU resources to help you incorporate educational resources and techniques into your teaching. Check out the following:


3. Bonus CSU resource - LinkedIn Learning

All Charles Sturt University students and staff members have access to LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com).

This online subscription library provides high-quality instructional videos to teach the latest business, creative and software skills, as well as an extensive range of teaching tips.

NOTE: Lynda.com is now LinkedIn Learning and all Charles Sturt University Lynda.com accounts were transferred to LinkedIn Learning accounts on July 8.

A video of the demo session for your transfer to LinkedIn Learning is available at:


Get to know LinkedIn Learning with a tour and getting started options available at



4. Magna Publications Subscriptions

All staff with a CSU email address have free access to our annual

CSU subscription to the four different high quality resources for enhancing practice.

Video seminars: Mentor Commons (20 minutes) and Magna Commons (40-90 minutes) also include the presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources that are available for download if you don't have time to listen to the seminar.

Text-based resources: The Teaching Professor (for teaching staff) and Academic Leader (for those in academic and administration leadership roles).

How to subscribe

There is a single CSU subscription code to access all four of these resources.

Staff with a CSU login can obtain the code and subscription instructions from this What's New link.

Alternatively, contact

Ellen McIntyre elmcintyre@csu.edu.au or

Matthew Larnach mlarnach@csu.edu.au


5. Links to previous bulletins

Folder with all previous issues.

Other CSU L&T Newsletters

Division of Learning and Teaching: DLT News

FoBJBS Newsletter: BJBS-News

FoA&E Newsletter: NeXus

Click below to download a list of previous Teaching Tuesdays@CSU topics

Upcoming Teaching Tuesdays issues...

Suggest topics that you would like for Teaching Tuesdays; or
Share your own teaching tips article.

Contact Ellen McIntyre elmcintyre@csu.edu.au to offer your suggestions.

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Teaching Tuesdays@CSU Contacts

Learning Academy, Division of Learning & Teaching, Charles Sturt University

Teaching Tuesdays@CSU bulletins are edited by Ellen McIntyre
Lecturer, Academic Development in the Learning Academy at Charles Sturt University

Kogi Naidoo

Dr Kogi Naidoo, FHERDSA and PFHEA, is Associate Professor and Director of the Learning Academy, Division of Learning and Teaching at Charles Sturt University, playing a strategic role contributing to and enhancing teaching, the curriculum and assessment practice, meeting both staff and student needs.