The Art of Building a Campuswide Learning Community in Higher Education
William Illingworth is a community builder at Lancaster Bible College (LBC) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Though his official title is Learning Management System Administrator, William understands that in order to accomplish his goals, he has to build a campus culture that prioritizes community.
And he did just that.
“We switched to Schoology because we believed that the design of the LMS engendered community, among other important factors,” William explains. “Our previous LMS left our students in the dark.”
Focusing on Connectedness
At Lancaster Bible College, many students did not know their professors or each other when it came to their online classes. There was little sense of community as they engaged in online activities.
“For us, that was crippling,” William admits. “Thankfully, Schoology has provided the foundation upon which we have worked hard to create community for our online students.”
William and his team established a robust training course that all students are enrolled in at all times to not only provide how-to materials, but to provide a sandbox course. This gives students countless opportunities to practice using Updates, Quizzes, Assignments, Media Albums, and Discussions, so they can learn Schoology and meet each other.
William also initiated a program for student groups. He limited group creation to faculty only, so students must find a faculty sponsor to create the group. This approach both builds faculty and student community while endorsing the student groups.
"Students are able to express their creativity and build communities through a productive system that rears in the Wild, Wild West," says William.
Building the Foundations for a Community
Students now know their professors, see their peers, and engage in community activities outside of their coursework. Students and faculty alike can submit video comments, post updates, and simply make their interactions more personable.
“We had some of that capability before, but there was no buy-in for taking advantage of it,” William explains. “Now, I regularly meet with faculty, staff, and students to help them get their Schoology profiles loaded, so that they can interact with one another in courses and groups.”
Learning from the Lessons of the Past
“When I first registered to attend LBC as an undergraduate, they had a social network for incoming students,” William explains. “It was a sincere attempt, but it flopped.“
Since graduating, however, William is ecstatic to be a major part of remedying what he sees as a major breakdown for the student experience. Even summers have changed. What was once a lull in student activity, is now a training ground for the fall.
Higher education at LBC has become a continuous interaction between students and faculty, the breadth of which transcends the classroom, the campus, and beyond.
Connectedness as a Culture
“Our students continue to rave about the Schoology mobile app,” William says. “They connect with faculty sponsors to make student groups, and they thank us time and time again for their faculty who use the calendar system.”
William is both thankful and humbled to be a part of Online Education at LBC, and relishes his position supporting Schoology users in making his community rock.
“We dubbed our learning environment the eCampus because we want the community they feel online to replicate that which they experience on the ground,” William explains. “So far, so good.”
Lancaster Bible College
Educator of the Year Finalist
Written by Philip Charles Stephens
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