The norms and expectations established in your classroom enhance or hinder your students’ learning experience. Community-centered learning environments explicitly promote norms and expectations that encourage critical inquiry and collaboration.
For example, in a community-centered class it’s more important to take a risk than to answer every question correctly. On the other hand, in classrooms where it’s not OK to make mistakes and only correct answers are lauded, students are discouraged from asking for clarification, taking risks and exploring new hypotheses. The focus is on the learners, their current understanding and the process of learning, not on the correct answer itself.
A climate of trust between you and your students and amongst their peers is one of the essential ingredients of a community-centered learning environment. When students know that you are interested in their needs and those of the entire class, they are more likely to participate in the community building process themselves. The absence of fear of failure or ridicule encourages students to challenge themselves and focus on mastery rather than just learning for good grades.
All of the above-mentioned strategies can be deployed in any setting, but the following suggestions are specific to the online learning environment.