Blogs

Back
Creating Community Online to Meet Student's Social Interaction Needs
March 24, 2021

The importance of social interaction and engagement in the online class environment has never been more apparent. The pandemic has shown that students suffer mentally and educationally when social interaction is removed from the college experience. "Students rely on their social networks at school to make sense of life" [1] said Sotiris Hji-Avgoustis, Chair of the Department of Management in the Miller College of Business at Ball State. The adverse effects of the country's shutdown on students are evident. 

A lack of social interaction can have damaging effects on student's mental and physical health. The feeling of being connected and having a sense of belonging has a significant impact on people. On the one hand, "social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being" [2]; however, on the other, when that connection is removed, there is an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression. People who feel less connected have lower self-esteem, less empathy for others, and are less trusting and cooperative [3]. The effects of a chronic lack of social contact increase a person's chances of "elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain" [4]. 

The social isolation caused by COVID-19 directly resulted in significantly higher reports of anxiety and depression than pre-pandemic levels. "Reports of moderate to severe anxiety rose by about 40 percent, and… reports of moderate to severe depression grew by 48 percent" [5]. This is a serious and concerning jump in levels of anxiety and depression and shows the damaging effects of a lack of social connection in college. Those most at risk for adverse mental health effects and experiencing the most significant struggles are the students with the fewest established relationships: first-year college students. 

Students are struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression, among other things, due to isolation. And the adverse effects do not stop there. Lack of social interaction is damaging learning outcomes as well. Learning is a very social process. Many online classes now consist of teachers talking at students with little back and forth between teacher and student, not to mention student to student. This practice is in "direct contrast to the philosophy that learning is primarily a social activity" and "the idea that the person who is doing the work is the person doing the learning" [6]. "Students learn more when they are able to talk to one another and be actively involved" [7]. This fact is important and informs best practices for teaching. Students who are engaging are learning more. So, in online courses where there are more community building and engagement opportunities, students will have increased learning and social experiences. 

Another social construct that helps improve learning is that social interaction helps to enhance learning perseverance. "The achievement of the group goals provides the students with a motivation to work hard and persevere" [8]. When there is a group goal, students are likely to be more engaged and work harder to make sure they do their part. When one group member is working hard, the other members are likely to put in the additional effort as well.  

An additional benefit of engagement in learning is that social interaction "enables students to enhance their communication skills" [9]. Social interaction enables students to gain self-confidence, which allows them to exchange ideas with others more effectively. [10] "For effective learning to take place, there is need for proper communication" [11].  

Social interaction also enhances retention. An engaged student who is getting a sufficient amount of social interaction in their courses is more likely to complete their degree than one who is not feeling connected or engaged [12].  

Without face-to-face interactions, building a community online through discussion boards and other means of engagement will become critical to further learning goals. With few other means to make connections, a properly positioned online learning environment can create a meaningful platform for connection and learning while driving retention.  

To flatten the curve of infection, schools went into lockdown. The whole country implemented public health measures like social distancing, business closures, a halt of traveling, and an order to stop social gatherings. These measures had important implications with both positive and negative effects on students' mental health and learning outcomes. It is in the university's best interest to focus on helping their students make meaningful connections online and increase their engagement in their courses.  

How Can Your School Easily Launch a Leaning Platform that Helps Students Build the Community Experience They Need? 

The shutdown of campuses and the shift to online education has left many students feeling isolated and lonely. This hurts mental health and learning outcomes. To help students, universities must make it a priority to get students engaged in online classes and attempt to build community using an online learning platform in order to meet student needs.  

An online learning platform can make or break the experience for students and if the goal is to build community and increase engagement, there are some key features a platform should have: 

  • Custom branded platform and content for engaging and up to date courses
  • Easy integration with top learning tools
  • Intuitive design with social media like features to get students interacting on the platform
  • AI and advanced data analytics to provide insights into students learning
  • Community building platform features like discussion boards and video capabilities to support the formation of relationships among the students and teachers 

Community building and increased engagement should be a top priority for schools. Student's mental health is suffering from the lack of social interaction that the pandemic has necessitated. Online education is trend that is here to stay. Schools must make sure that, moving forward, online learning environments are designed in alignment with their goals of increasing engagement and community development to provide a positive and valuable learning experience for their students.  

Amesite Offers a Single, Easy to Use, Scalable Solution  

Launch a platform that will help your school build community online with intuitive and engaging features, social media inspired messaging and announcement functions, and secure video conferencing capabilities.  

For students, a sense of community and engagement with peers and teachers is very important for their mental health and the retention of knowledge. Amesite is specifically designed to build community and engage learners. It has a retention rate of 98% across all sectors. This is an unprecedented number and speaks to the very high level of engagement that Amesite's platform offers. The platform provides unparalleled ease of use, features that build community and engagement through custom content and features. 

Amesite's product is easy to acquire, use and scale and offers:  

  • A branded, customized platform that's scalable and cost-effective
  • An engaging and intuitive platform with a social media inspired design
  • Community building features like discussion boards and video conferencing
  • Best-in-class technology that offers seamless integration of top learning tools in one place
  • System launches in 24 hours, and entire curricula is ready in 30 days
  • Complete customer support on an easy-to-use platform that reduces administrative burdens allowing more one on one time with students 

By correlating learner behaviors with specific outcomes identified by qualified instructors, Amesite trains its algorithms specifically for essential learning outcomes, enabling it to be a useful tool for instructors. The combinations of information collected through Amesite's educational products and outcomes measured using our online learning products are easy to use and implement and will provide insights to enable increased student engagement.  

Students need a sense of community in these trying times. It is important to increase engagement, and having the right tools will make a seemingly difficult task easy and effective.  

Let us help increase student engagement and build community online today! Request a Demo!  

Don't forget to subscribe below and follow us on social to be the first to know about new resources, updates, news, and more! Find Amesite on: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram!  

Resources:  

[1] Ball State University. April 30, 2020.  https://www.bsu.edu/news/press-center/archives/2020/4/social-interaction-important-for-college-students Accessed March 21, 2021. 

[2] NY Times. June 12, 2017. Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html Accessed March 21, 2021.  

[3] NY Times. June 12, 2017. Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html Accessed March 21, 2021.  

[4] NY Times. June 12, 2017. Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html Accessed March 21, 2021.  

[5] Inside Higher Ed. March 3, 2021. Live Updates: Latest News on Coronavirus and Higher Education. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/03/19/live-updates-latest-news-coronavirus-and-higher-education Accessed March 21, 2021. 

[6] Scholar Works. Oct. 2013. The Impact of Social Interaction on Student Learning https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3105&context=reading_horizons Accessed March 21, 2021. 

[7] Scholar Works. Oct. 2013. The Impact of Social Interaction on Student Learning  https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3105&context=reading_horizons Accessed March 21, 2021. 

[8-12] Ivy Panda. Sep 26th, 2019. Importance of Social Interaction to learning. https://ivypanda.com/essays/importance-of-social-interaction-to-learning-critical-writing/#:~:text=Social%20interaction%20is%20important%20because%20it%20enables%20students%20to%20enhance,is%20need%20for%20proper%20communication.&text=The%20social%20interaction%20helps%20to,them%20to%20become%20good%20listeners. Accessed March 21, 2021.