Teacher communities can be empowering networks to share experiences, explore new ideas, and pause to socialise in an otherwise non-stop profession.
Our team decided to take the social media idea to make an online community space inside Moodle to connect more than 100 teachers working remotely across Australia, and from New Zealand, Japan, Dubai and the UK.
Starting a new space
Back in 2014, staff delivering online learning would be contacted by phone, mail or email. Contact was very limited and the teachers hardly knew each other. When the whole world was connecting via social media, we didn’t have a platform to contact or connect with our teachers as a whole.
Moodle was already the space teachers spent most of their time, designing and delivering learning activities to students. So we experimented with creating a new community space inside it. Another reason to experiment within our learning management system was that it avoided imposing on teachers by asking them to jump into a social media platform and create a professional profile.
Focusing on community-building
The look of the teacher lounge was adapted from the School of Counselling Student Lounge space in Moodle.
Originally, it was designed to connect an online teaching community, to standardise communications and provide a one-stop-shop for information. We did see a marked decreased in the number of personal repetitive emails received. Over time, however, the importance of having a self-sustaining lounge where teachers can share knowledge and understanding became a stronger factor. So we pivoted from merely providing a communications channel, to nurturing that desired sense of community as much as possible.
Inside our Teacher Lounge we link to relevant resources, such as policies, contact lists, surveys and tutorials. But we also have spaces designed for the community to mix and mingle and share ideas. By far the most popular pages in terms of views are the front page and the ‘Talking Points’, followed by the webinar catch-ups, collaborative collage and Zoom guides.
Click around the image below to explore the main areas:
Feedback from the community
The teachers tell us that they are now feeling more connected to the team and other teachers than ever. Other than its many use for work purposes, our Teacher Lounge is now a place we share stories from holidays, who had a grand-daughter, who sky dives, even a few jokes here and there.
Activity analysis inside Moodle also indicates that teachers are regularly participating and continuing to find value in the space over time. Analysis over a period of two months showed that the space received 369 views each week. From about 100 academic teachers, there was also a steady average of 17 new posts or comments each week.
The creation of the community has been significant for staff working remotely. One teacher commented that while ‘the practical support has been invaluable’, the Teacher Lounge ‘has connected me to a community. I’m not on my own!’. Similarly, another teacher told us: ‘Whilst Blended/ Online teaching suits me very well, I’m aware I could feel ‘lost at sea’ without the support of the team… When I feel supported and connected, I can support and connect my students in a more meaningful and effective way.’
Listen to one teacher’s brief reflections on the space as a learning community:
Keen to support your own teacher community?
Below, you can click through the timeline to see more details about some of the practices we adopted as the community developed. As you can see, we gradually introduced content to ease the ‘shock’ factor that comes with change, and to help establish trust, build rapport coupled with non-judgemental support, and create an interactive space which encourages engagement and enables community: