Chapter 29: Bringing Back Learning Communities in the 21st Century
Published:12 Jul 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the issue of educational inequality. There is evidence that students from low-income families and underrepresented minorities struggled to adjust to the digital environment for various reasons, exacerbating challenges that other students face in a digital classroom. To alleviate these inequalities, we propose that educators deliberately build online student communities using social or digital media platforms. However, establishing such communities prove challenging due to a lack of significant student participation. We suggest two key roles for the instructor: to provide engagement for student participation, and to carefully choose the online platform. For the former, we believe in engaging students through regular reminders and many open-ended discussion questions to spark discourse. For the latter, we suggest five criteria for educators to evaluate platforms: (1) interactional synchronicity; (2) familiarity, convenience and accessibility; (3) anonymity/pseudonymity; (4) distractions to learners; and (5) features for instructional design. With these as a guide, we are sure that online classrooms can provide peer support networks to alleviate educational inequalities, especially in issues regarding motivation and discipline.