Community building at UofT has always been important. The pandemic has exacerbated community building, and students report that it has created increased disconnection through social isolation. We wanted to know what community building in this context entails. This project was carried out to provide insights to individuals offering programming & community building opportunities online, exploring the potential for digital communities to tap into new possibilities by fostering student-centric values and encouraging student-led participation.
Successful digital communities act as secure anchors for students, grounding them in meaningful engagement and giving them hope to continue through the struggles of the pandemic. Community builders can secure students in multiple ways: by creating open spaces that are attentive to intimacy and vulnerability; by developing and reasserting a shared community experience and history; by fostering student-centric and student/participant-led community online spaces.
Our main themes include:
- The Power of Vulnerability
- Sharing Is Caring
- Empowering Student Voices
These themes and insights supported designing a set "Signals for Success", which include guiding ideas for the design of digital communities and examples of how to put these ideas into practice.