Since the early days of the internet, online communities have formed around similar interests and any niche you can think of. And despite the popularity of social media, online forums and groups on other platforms persist.
Their appeal? It’s a gathering of like-minded people feeling understood despite their quirky hobby, or it can be a place users turn to with their queries. Entire communities like Reddit or Quora are built around answering questions.
So why not create your own hub on your eLearning platform to get your students’ burning questions answered? Integrating a learning community creates more value for your learners, you can get feedback to improve courses, and find out about their pain points to enhance your marketing efforts.
Organise your online study hub around student needs
Before you create your learning community, be sure to know why your students would want to spend their time there. As a starting point, use previously created marketing customer personas to gather information on how your new online community will benefit your students.
Create separate groups for each course, in which learners can exchange information and help each other out. This way, the discussions within a forum are usually kept on topic. It might happen that some students go on tangents. Consider creating a separate corner in your learning community for fun off-topic banter to keep everyone happy.
Establish your community rules and structure
Just like in any other forum your first post should lay out some guidance on how to keep this a happy space and free of unacceptable behaviour. It won’t keep away all the trolls but this can be a shared agreement that every new member has to read before they start posting.
Right after your netiquette post, include a document on how to use the forum. This is mainly about permissions and structure. Decide if students can create their own groups, if they can gain extra privileges by collecting points, or if only moderators have that ability.
Regarding the structure of your community, you also want to make decisions on access. Can current students only communicate with peers in their class or can they also go on a deep dive and ask previous students for advice?
Another big decision that can make or break a forum is whether private messages are enabled. This can help learners form deeper bonds but could also go into a negative direction with bullies abusing community guidelines.
Choose wisely but don’t worry too much about getting it wrong at first. These settings can always be adjusted.
Create ice breakers to develop personal connections
Through social media, most people are used to participating in online communities in some shape or form, but it might still be a strange experience to join a forum related to learning. Learners used to meeting in person to study together in school or university, might not be motivated to contribute, as it feels impersonal to them.
You can work against that by encouraging personal interaction and dedicating one corner of your learning community to introductions. Students can use this area to talk about their hobbies, favourite books, or TV shows to form a bond outside of the course, just like they would in school or on a university campus.
Have your LMS and community feature ready for mobile
Most online course platforms offer an app for their students to access courses on the go. Encourage learners to also get the app to make it easier for them to stay in touch with their peers and check on things during their commute, or a long wait in the queue for coffee.
Chances are students prefer to use the app to interact with instructors and other students rather than having to open up their laptops to check for new notifications.
Creating an engaging learning community can become your number one approach to getting more students to return to your eLearning platform. An online community creates a learning experience that is closer to studying on a real life campus where it’s not only about putting your head down to study but also about making friends.
The likelihood of returning students is greater if they found a study buddy that keeps them motivated to learn. A learning community is your invaluable asset to help create these relationships and give your learners more incentive to sign up for other courses on your portal.
Ready to start building your own learning community to increase engagement and sales? Book your free demo today!