Here's an idea I had while reading a great article (Cats in the classroom: Online learning in hybrid space by Michelle Kazmer) in First Monday.
Read the article to get more info on why I think this might be a good idea, but I was thinking that maybe having students post pictures of the workspaces they're in while participating in your course might help build a sense of community. I've long thought that having students post pictures of themselves helps everyone build a little bit of a connection to one another.
I've been thinking about how awareness of one another helps online students create connections and feel more a part of a community. In my previous post, I noted that online instructors should talk about the more quotidian aspects of their lives to help students know that they are "real." Sharing with one another what the space they're in while connecting in the online classroom might help to create such awareness.
I know that many online students like the anonymity of online courses, but instead of posting picutres of themselves, you can also have students post pictures of things that they feel represent themselves--a favorite image, a picture of their pet... If you try having students post pictures of their workspaces, you might give them the option of posting a picture of just one thing on their desk, or the view out the window.
Give it a try, anyway. I'm going to the next time I teach online. If you do try it out, please post a comment here and let us know how it went.
Technorati tags: community_indicators, online classroom