How do we build effective online student communities?

K. Fee*, L. Pick, C. McCartan, P. Hermon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Delivering engineering programmes online presents several challenges, including issues around effective technologies, digital access, and delivery of traditional hands-on project and laboratory activities. Reflection on these issues after a full year of online teaching suggests that despite initial difficulties, both educators and students have adapted well to online delivery of content, and indeed certain aspects such as video content and online quizzes have been very well received by students. However, significant challenges remain in creating effective social structures and peer groups which are vital for student learning, mental health and wellbeing. This workshop explored how can we encourage students to build online communities. In particular, what structures and opportunities should be in place? What activities can we build into our programmes that embed social interaction? How can technology be used to facilitate this? The workshop started with a short poll to gather information on participant experiences of teaching in an online environment verse face-to-face. It was facilitated using virtual breakout rooms with participants split into two groups. Group one focused on how we create an appropriate online environment while the second discussed what methods and technologies could be utilised to achieve this. Responses and contributions from each breakout session were gathered using the electronic collaboration platform Padlet. A summary of each area was created and disseminated. This workshop was an excellent starting point in discussing the complexities of building and maintaining online student communities. The majority of participants felt they gained new ideas on how to encourage students to interact and moving forward are keen to try something new in their teaching. Participants found sharing their experiences with colleagues useful.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the SEFI 49th Annual Conference: blended learning in engineering education: challenging, enlightening - and lasting?
EditorsHans-Ulrich Heiß, Hannu-Matti Järvinen, Annette Mayer, Alexandra Schulz
PublisherEuropean Society for Engineering Education
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9782873520236
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021
Event49th Annual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education 2021 - virtual, online, Berlin, Germany
Duration: 13 Sept 202116 Sept 2021 (Conference proceedings)

Publication series

NameSEFI Proceedings


Conference49th Annual Conference of the European Society for Engineering Education 2021
Abbreviated titleSEFI 2021
Internet address


  • Building online communities
  • online engagement
  • online learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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