Community building activities
Equity Unbound has teamed up with OneHE to develop some open educational resources for online community-building.
How to use these resources
Each of these resources includes a video either demonstrating or describing the activity or exercise for community-building. We also include descriptive text, slides you can reuse/adapt where relevant, and links to additional resources. We also show you how much time, what kind of resources you need, and different variations on the activity to help you adapt it for your purposes.
Important: Any technique can block some people out, make them feel unwelcomed, or be used in a way that privileges some and makes it harder on others. All of these techniques should be used in conjunction with pedagogies of care and what we call Intentionally Equitable Hospitality.
As you watch/read any of these, please let us know:
- If you find that the activity is not hospitable to a certain group.
- If you try an adaptation of this activity, or try it as is and have interesting results to share, please contribute your adaptation/reflection.
- If you have an activity or resource that you want to contribute.
Try an activity
Select an activity below and find out how you can get started with building community online. The activities have been categorized by functionality, to help you find what you are looking for.
Biographies of curators of activities
Maha Bali, PhD is an Associate Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, where she has been a faculty developer since 2003. She holds a PhD in Education from the University of Sheffield, UK. She is the co-director of Virtually Connecting and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound (links below), and is an advisory board member of OneHE and the Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange project. She tweets @bali_maha and blogs at https://blog.mahabali.me https://www.virtuallyconnecting.org/ https://unboundeq.creativitycourse.org/
Autumm Caines is an Instructional Designer at the University of Michigan - Dearborn in the Hub for Teaching and Learning Resources, prior to which she held professional appointments at St. Norbert College and Capital University. She holds a MA in Educational Technology from The Ohio State University. In the Open, she is a Co-Director of Virtually Connecting where her work explores questions of presence and spontaneity in synchronous virtual conversations as well as equity and inclusion in online community. She also helps to organize and facilitate Open/Connected online events for the purposes of faculty development and her own practice in digital stewardship, most recently with the tags #DigCiz, #DigPINS, and #EthicalEdTech. Autumm tweets @autumm and maintains a web portfolio at https://autumm.org
Mia Zamora, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English, the Director of the MA in Writing Studies and the Director of the Kean University Writing Project in Union, NJ, USA. She has recently received the Kean University “Professor of the Year” Award. Dr. Zamora’s commitment to equity, digital literacies, data rights, and intercultural understanding is clear in both her scholarship and leadership work. She has founded several global learning networks including Equity Unbound (#unboundeq) and Networked Narratives (#netnarr), and was Co-Chair of ALT’s #OER20 conference on “Care in Openness”.
Dr. Prusko has a strong commitment to the thoughtful use of technology as a way to increase access to meaningful educational experiences for all learners and is passionate about using technology to increase global access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, and enable all students to have a globally networked learning experience. She has 15+ years progressive and multi-faceted experience with design and management of digital learning projects, specializing in: building networks and creating community engagement strategies; and developing innovative pedagogical approaches using multiple modalities including social media, open educational resources and virtual meeting tools. Dr. Prusko is currently Associate Director, Learning Design and Technology, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and MBA in business management, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (Ph.D.).
Irene has been an online facilitator for e/merge Africa Network for five years. Ms. Maweu has experience in content development and online learning. She has tutored, facilitated online, and supported online learning and communication, as well as carrying out face to face facilitation and moderation in training for capacity development, policy and strategic planning workshops and national and international conferences. She has worked and consulted all over Africa. She is a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), eLearning in Development implementation (ELDI), Guidelines International Network (GIN) and an e/merge Africa Network and team member.
Kate Bowles is the Associate Dean International in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia, where she is also the former Head of Educational Design. She has been facilitating online communities across distance in asynchronous and synchronous modes for twenty years. Kate’s focus is on learning from lived experience to co-design culturally safe and mentally safe learning environments that respect student diversity. She is the founder of NiCHE: Narrative informed Codesign in Health and Education, a grassroots group of scholars and researchers working to provide consumer and student insights to service design.
Remi Kalir is an Assistant Professor of Learning Design and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development. He researches how social annotation facilitates collaborative, open, and equitable learning. More here: http://remikalir.com/meet-remi/bio/
Susan D. Blum
Susan D Blum is a professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, currently fixated on education and pedagogical praxis. She is the author of "I Love Learning; I Hate School”: An Anthropology of College (Cornell, 2016) and the editor of the forthcoming volume Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead) (West Virginia University Press, 2020).
Mays Imad is a neuroscientist and professor of pathophysiology and biomedical ethics at Pima Community College, the founding coordinator of the Teaching and Learning Center, and a Gardner Institute Fellow. Dr. Imad’s current research focuses on stress, self-awareness, advocacy, and classroom community, and how these relate to cognition, metacognition, and, ultimately, student learning and success. She tweets @lrningsanctuary
Sherri Spelic has taught elementary Physical Education at the American International School Vienna since 1996. She has an MA in Sport Psychology and an MEd in Independent School Leadership. She blogs frequently on a variety of topics and is founder of the online publication, Identity, Education and Power which invites educator commentary on the intersections of those three themes. Her essay collection, Care At The Core, was released in 2019.
Raised in London, Jasmina Najjar moved to Lebanon and graduated with high distinction from AUB in 2000 (BA in English Literature). She went back to the UK to pursue her MA in Literature, Culture and Modernity at Queen Mary, University of London. Her thesis was on fragmented Lebanese identity in the translated works of Rashid Al Daif (it was published as a book in April 2011). In Fall 2008-2009, Jasmina Najjar joined AUB as a full-timer. Since then, she has been focusing her energies on teaching English communication skills, ever eager to share her real-life writing skills and techniques with her students. One of the first to teach courses in blended format at AUB, she has an avid interest in technology, social media, and digital pedagogy. Her work on gamification in higher education attracted the attention of the press. Jasmina Najjar is also the author of Beirut Knights and is a contributor to print and online publications. Passionate about film, she was a jury member for the second Lebanese Cinema Movie Guide Awards, represented Lebanon on the Critics without Borders panel at the fifth Malmö Arab Film Festival, and is the co-founder of Movie Sharks.
Activities list and descriptions
Encourage students to share something of themselves.
Fun introductory or warm-up activity.
Sharpen logical reasoning and debating skills. Create discussion.
Engage everyone in making sense of profound challenges. Use to address difficult or confusing topics.
TRIZ can “Stop Counterproductive Activities and Behaviors to Make Space for Innovation”. Try it out!
Get students used to supporting each other without always turning to an “expert” for solutions.
Bring in external speakers into your classroom via a virtual “studio visit”, an informal discussion with one or two external guests.
This pair or trio activity is ideal for reflection and also to practice focused listening.
Use the Purpose to Practice structure with students to co-develop “community guidelines” for the class.
How to help students thrive in class in times of trauma.
Create a discourse community whilst also sharpening close reading, research, summarizing, paraphrasing, and citation skills.
Promote a sense of community and break the ice in class with collaborative storytelling activities.
Create positive engagement and ensure centrality of student voices from the first day of class.
Provides a space for regular practice of spontaneous creativity through “mini” challenges published every day.
The purpose of this activity is to engage in a discussion about identity and difference.
The purpose here is to build community through students sharing where they are studying from.
Annotating the syllabus helps learners to read, make sense of, question, and discuss their learning.
Make use of the 5-10 minutes before class time or if you give a break in the middle of class.
For students to share multiple dimensions of themselves, synchronously or asynchronously.
Setting a human-centered tone to your class from the beginning of the semester.
Setting a human-centered tone to your class from the beginning of the semester.
Addressing many of the questions you might have about video conferencing.
This activity promotes small group intimacy and collaboration, making a large group session feel interactive.
The purpose of this activity is to get to know people’s name on a more personal level through storytelling.
Creating semi-formal, semi-synchronous spaces outside of class time for students to socialize with each other.
Creative take on doing intros that can help students to know one another and challenges perfection paralysis.
Particularly important during a pandemic, but this is a good way to start any class.
Promote focus and reflection while allowing individuals to compose responses thoughtfully and calmly in writing.