Build connections online with Virtual Communities

Expert Insight

Build connections online with Virtual Communities

96

Number of student affairs and enrollment professionals that EAB convened to share common challenges, exchange ideas
Number of student affairs and enrollment professionals that EAB convened to share common challenges, exchange ideas

Across the last few months, student affairs teams have been working diligently to transform their summer programs to a digital format—no easy task. EAB convened nearly 100 student affairs and enrollment professionals to share common challenges, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. Across these convenings, we discussed the many ways to introduce students to your institution, build a sense of affinity and community, and orient students to important resources and policies. Read how one institution is building community online below.

Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University serves as an example of how schools can build community among students virtually, even in slightly larger groups. Establishing three clear intended outcomes (build connections to FAU, connections to peers, and connections to the Boca Raton community) helped focus their efforts and secure buy-in from contributing campus partners.

Overview of their structure

Florida Atlantic University’s first-year seminar course has proved fertile testing ground for building community online. The fully online course, called iSucceed, focuses on introducing students to college, setting goals, using a growth mindset, and identifying personal strengths. iSucceed was created and piloted last year by Academic Affairs.

This year, FAU partnered across Academic and Student Affairs to add a stronger focus on affinity- and community-building to these courses. The affinity- and community-building components, called FAU Virtual Communities, are centered around three key goals: building connection to peers, connection to FAU, and connection to the Boca Raton community. FAU decided to expand Virtual Communities so that all incoming first-year students (not just those enrolled in iSucceed) could participate in community-building across the summer and engage in co-curricular opportunities.

Sample weekly breakdown of FAU’s Virtual Communities program:

FAU iSucceed Course content (synchronous or asynchronous lesson, module, or academic assignment)


Activity #1 (Goal: build connection to FAU or connection to Boca Raton)


Activity #2 (Goal: build connections to peers)


Sample of connection-building activities:

Virtual lookbook

Students populate a slide with a photo of themselves and their major, interests, and why they chose FAU. Students start conversations in a message board based on shared interests or experiences.

Fight song

Students and orientation leaders record themselves singing parts of the FAU fight song.

Community MEET program

Panel of local businesses and volunteer organizations talk with students.

Program Details

2,000

Incoming FAU students will participate in Virtual Communities  this summer.
Incoming FAU students will participate in Virtual Communities this summer.
  • Fast facts: Approximately 2,000 incoming FAU students will participate in FAU Virtual Communities this summer (40 sections of 50 students each), supported by approximately 40 Academic Section Leaders, 40 student affairs professionals, and ~20 orientation leaders).
  • Wraparound support: Cohorts are supported by an Academic Section Leader, orientation leader, and student affairs professional. Orientation leaders and student affairs professionals will follow up personally with students who don’t attend or participate in connection activities. Section Leaders evaluate student work, provide students with timely feedback, and encourage student engagement within the FAU iSucceed course.
  • It takes a village: Teams developing Virtual Community activities and content included student leaders and department and academic affairs colleagues. This program is a true collaboration between academic and student affairs.
  • Looking ahead: FAU will expand Virtual Communities to all incoming first-year students this fall.

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