Faculty Blog:  Creating Community in an Online School

The title sounds like an oxymoron; yet Dwight Global has managed to do just that. Dwight Global, an online high school and middle school, brings students and faculty together in various ways, including the house system, peer mentoring, clubs, class activities, and more.

By Dr. Anthea Lake, Director of Student Life

The title sounds like an oxymoron; yet Dwight Global has managed to do just that. Our online school has brought students and faculty together in various ways, including the house system, peer mentoring, clubs, class activities, and more.

Do you remember your first day of school? You may have had butterflies in your stomach, felt lost in a new space, not knowing anyone, or had concerns about how you would fit in. These feelings are universal regardless of whether the school is brick and mortar or online. Thanks to technology, and a strong community-based mission, Dwight Global is not only able to engage students academically, but also to provide a sense of real community.

In my class, I am always thinking about building relationships. Are students bonding with me, as their teacher, and with each other? One activity I planned to deepen interconnectivity was an online party. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but it was fun and it worked! Each student brought along his or her favorite drink and snack/cake, as well as something that was dear to them. We had a cat, a dog, a first pair of pointe shoes, a friend ― the human kind ― and more. It was a great end to the trimester and bonding experience.

Beyond these built-in school experiences, there is also the unexpected! In November, when ninth grader Ciara Hatch and her mother traveled from their home in New England to warmer climes in North Carolina, they met ― and shared an early Thanksgiving dinner ― with three of Ciara's teachers.

Other methods of building a community at Dwight Global include:

Our House System Fosters Camaraderie

At the start of the school year, all Dwight Global students are assigned to one of four houses. The houses provide not only an increased feeling of belonging, but also a sense of tradition and leadership opportunities. This year, student house captains worked hard to welcome, engage, and encourage all students to be active members of the Dwight Global school community. During the year, students compete for house points, and a winner will be announced in June.

Residential Programs: Meeting Face to Face

All Dwight Global, a private online school, students are invited to visit Dwight's New York campus two to three times per year. In these residential programs, students bond with their teachers and peers in person. Programs include orientation, which kicks off the year with ice-breakers and an introduction to student life; a multidisciplinary academic and arts program in February topped off with Dwight's annual global concert at Carnegie Hall; and our year-end celebration which includes Dwight's graduation at the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art. When you bring students together from an online class, they greet each other like long-lost friends! These residential programs enhance the strong bonds that students have already developed through real-time classes and communications outside of class.

Collaboration Through Group Projects

New families often ask if there will be group and project work at Dwight Global. The answer: "Yes!" Technology like Google Docs, through which classmates can collaborate on written pieces, and Adobe Connect real-time web conferencing software, enable students to team up just as they would in a traditional classroom. For example, each year my U.S. Government students work on an assignment about the role of the president. In groups of three or four, they select a president democratically and collaborate on a presentation, which they share in our real-time online class.

 Student-run Newspaper

Our newspaper is headed by two Dwight Global students, Mackenzie Clark and Joshua Kashapata, who had a vision to create an online forum where Dwight Global students all around the world can interact and learn about each other's cultures and ideas. It is also a place where students can express themselves through the power of the camera lens and the written word. The paper celebrates stories of success on a regular basis and covers events that students can participate in or through which they can support their fellow schoolmates.

With Dwight Global students and faculty around the world, you never know where they will connect with one another!

Dr. Lake is the Director of Student Life and an online teacher at Dwight Global Online School, Dwight School's online program.  A seasoned IB and online educator, Dr. Lake has taught high school and college students , as well as led professional development workshops, for over twenty years.  

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