Building an online community - Tier 3, Connection

Pointers for group discussion activities to help learners connect with one another in an online community.

Caitlin Foran avatar
Written by Caitlin Foran
Updated over a week ago

This article is one in a series about how to build an online community. For a description of online communities and tiers of involvement and interaction, see the first article in the series: Building an online community.

What happens at tier 3?

Where tier 1 was about getting in and tier 2 was about putting yourself out there, tier 3 is where we want learners to actually interact. We want back and forth. We want learners to form connections. As connections and confidence build, you'll find learners will feel more and more comfortable engaging in genuine discussion, where they're able to construct knowledge together.

Learners are… responding to others’ posts. They’re asking: How can I connect with others? What can I learn from them? What do I have in common with them?

Facilitators are… modelling good responses, facilitating connections between learners by highlighting similarities or differences, but… getting out of the way as much as possible to encourage learner-learner interactions.

For tier 3 the examples for connection we’ve got here all build on activities we set up in tier 2. To set up learners to respond to one another you can either: 

  1. Add it to the bottom of your initial message for the activity.

  2. Add it as a response to your initial message after the majority of learners have posted. 

We'd recommend going with the first option in most cases because it sets out your expectations from the beginning. The second option is useful if you're not seeing much action in the thread and want to encourage engagement.

Connections for introductions

Message from the facilitator
Find another student with a similarity/difference or interesting point in their introduction and reply to them.

For instance it might be as simple as saying to another person: "Hi Jai, I've come to sales from construction too! I find there's actually a lot of similarities between the two, especially when it comes to building relationships.

Connections for share a resource

Message from the facilitator
After you've shared a resource, read three resources from other learners that you like the look of. Then, for one of those resources, reply to that person and say what you learned or really enjoyed in that resource.

Connections for share a story

Message from the facilitator
Once you've shared your story, have a read through of what others have written. 

  • Are there any stories similar to your own? Are there any that are entirely different?

  • Have you tried any of these approaches as well? How did they work for you?

Share what you notice by responding to that person's story.

Connections for muddiest point

Message from the facilitator
Read through others' muddiest points

  • Has anyone got exactly the same questions as you? - Give them a like so we know a few of you have that question.

  • Has someone got a similar question? Reply to their post adding the particular muddy aspect you have.


  • Are there any muddy points you think you could clarify for people? Respond to their post with how you've made sense of that topic or a resource you found particularly useful.


The general approach for facilitating connections advice from the area of cultural competence tells us that finding similarities and acknowledging differences is a great way to both bond and understand one another. Choose activities that focus on exploring coordination and communication between participants so that each works to their own objectives. We don't want to demand or expect massive collaboration just yet, only some communication.

You could also apply the general advice for fostering connection to any activities where you've asked learners to share something, just give learners some support on what sorts of connections they might make: similarities, differences etc.

Did this answer your question?