Establish Rapport and Build Community

How do we create a sense of classroom community in an online environment? How do we create opportunities for students to get to know one another when they can’t meet in person?



  • Hold an open pre-semester office hour 
  • Send a welcome email or post a short video introducing yourself and the course to your students
  • Add a “practicum” to your course, allowing students to complete interactive, hands-on activities either on their own time or in small groups organized by time zone, area of interest or focus, special project, etc. Schedule a consultation about teaching remotely
  • Craft activities that promote community and social interaction. 
  • Set up a class-specific Slack channel, Campuswire, or other mode of communication. This seems to be better than the standard Blackboard discussion board, as students can post news, DM, and engage with material at a higher level. Students can also share knowledge and ask questions outside of class on these channels. 
  • Create opportunities for more contact with students and faculty, as well as for peer interactions: group chats, take-home exams, collaborative projects, discussion board posts in small groups.

During the Semester

  • Ask the students to share their goals for the course with you via email or in-office hours
  • Use your students’ names, and ask students to use one another’s names
  • Open your virtual classroom 10 minutes before class begins, allowing students to talk informally with you and one another
  • Articulate your expectations for classroom participation (do you expect students to keep their audio or video on when on Zoom?) 
  • Use simple community-building activities on the first day or at the start of class sessions
  • Design “small group” activities for students during class (you may ask students to wrestle with a question or problem in a small group, then report back to the class as a whole) 
  • Design “peer review” assignments on a shared file service, such as Google Drive or OneDrive, in Canvas, or by using digital tools like Voice Thread
  • Plan carefully sequenced or scaffolded collaborative assignments Schedule a consultation about teaching remotely
  • Plan or ask your students to plan “watch parties” during which groups of students watch pre-recorded/asynchronous lectures together 
  • Open a virtual “department lounge” which students can drop into and (if appropriate) work together 
  • Hold department office hours, staffed on a rotational basis by faculty and department staff
  • Encourage student-student discussion outside the course as homework with various types of follow-up.
  • Give students a question they know they will all have a chance to answer and begin with that. This opens up students to participating early.
  • Assign working groups for projects; do not expect students to be able to find groups on their own.  
  • Plan ice breaker activities. 
  • Open Zoom early to encourage informal conversation and allow the meeting to remain open after class for 15 minutes. 
  • Welcome every student individually when they join the meeting.
  • Recommend use of the raising hand and reaction functions on Zoom to increase engagement.
  • Encourage students to use the chat function to ask questions during a lecture. Have a preceptor answer questions in the Q&A chat.
  • Play around with imaginative backgrounds.


  • Hold a virtual poster (or short video presentation) session in which students share research findings and pose questions for future inquiry
  • Plan (or ask students to plan) a virtual symposium, at which students present their final papers or projects
  • Encourage students to present at Princeton Research Day at the end of the spring semester, individually or as part of a group
  • Plan (or ask students to plan) a virtual tour of a digital exhibition they have curated
  • Host a virtual celebration, recognizing your students’ efforts