Learning path

Community Building

Maha Bali

Maha Bali

Mia Zamora

Mia Zamora

Autumm Caines

Autumm Caines

Equity Unbound present strategies for creating communities built on principles of equity and care that produce learning spaces in which all students can flourish.

About the Learning Path

Equity Unbound has been working with OneHE to create and curate a bank of free resources that can help educators to create equitable, caring, and inclusive communities that support learning. In this learning path, the team helps you to navigate those resources—for online, face-to-face (f2f), or hybrid interactions—by picking out successful strategies and techniques that can be used at various points throughout a course.

On completion of this learning path, you will:

  • Understand the principles and strategies that underpin embedding equity and care in communities, in particular online.
  • Be familiar with tools and techniques you can use to create engagement at the beginning and throughout your teaching period.
  • Know how to identify gaps and areas for work to improve equity and care in your courses.

Did you know you can also browse the activities by category?

Exploring Community Building Activities

Step 1

Welcome from Maha, Autumm, and Mia

Welcome to this learning path from Maha, Autumm, and Mia who introduce themselves, their research and teaching interests and why they are passionate about this topic.

Step 2

Introduction to community building

Community building is critical to the success of online courses. Maha explains why we need to make the effort at the beginning and throughout our courses and why we should be intentional about building equity and care.

Step 3

Intentionally Equitable Hospitality

As course leaders, we are the host. Maha suggests ways in which we can include students in our learning spaces, paying particular attention to those at risk of exclusion, to create an environment that is conducive to learning.

Step 4

Inclusive and engaging introductions

Autumm gives some tips on creating warm introductions in synchronous and asynchronous courses to get your teaching period off to a great start. Check out the resources referenced including What Kind of Animal Are You?, Surrealist Portraits and Some Safety Considerations for Online Community Building. Also take a look at Mia and Maha’s conversation on introductions.


Browse all Introductory activities >

Step 5

Setting the tone

It’s really important that we model our teaching philosophy with our students. Maha offers some ideas such as sending a warm introductory video or open letter, inviting students to create community guidelines and annotate the syllabus, and establishing third-places where students can interact more freely.


Browse all ‘Setting the tone activities’ >

Step 6

Warm-ups and Check-ins

Maintaining a sense of sincere connection and trust between those on your course is something that requires conscious effort. Mia recommends a few activities that help us to tell stories that create a sense of belonging, including Image gallery, Wild/Mad Tea and Spiral Journal.


Browse all ‘Warm up activities’ >

Step 7

Facilitating ongoing student engagement

Introductions and check-ins are a great starting point, but we also need to structure our ongoing engagement with students. Autumm recommends the Wild/Mad Tea, Pass the Paper, and Structured Dialogue for synchronous courses and the Collaborative Lit Review Matrix for asynchronous teaching.


Browse all ‘Ongoing engagement activities’ >

Step 8

Liberating Structures

Liberating structures are activities that enable equitable, engaged, and constructive dialogue by dispersing the power that once resided with the expert. Mia suggests you take a look at Conversation Cafe, TRIZ, and Troika Consulting.


Browse all ‘Liberating Structures’ activities >

Step 9

The Equity-care Matrix

The Equity-Care Matrix, developed by Maha and Mia, helps you to think about the learning space you create, identify any challenges and gaps, and focus your efforts to build the optimal environment for your students’ learning.

Step 10

Equitable teaching

No one strategy works in all circumstances. Maha uses the ‘rumi cheese analogy’ to explain how we can layer strategies to maximise equity across a course.


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Meet the Expert(s)

Maha Bali

Maha Bali

Equity Unbound and community building

Maha Bali, PhD, is Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, where she has been a faculty developer since 2003. She holds a PhD in Education from the University of Sheffield, UK. She is the co-director of Virtually Connecting and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound, and is an advisory board member of OneHE and the Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange project. She tweets @bali_maha and blogs at https://blog.mahabali.me.

Mia Zamora

Mia Zamora

Mia Zamora, Ph.D. is Professor of English, the Director of the MA in Writing Studies and the Director of the Kean University Writing Project in Union, NJ, USA. She has recently received the Kean University 'Professor of the Year' Award. Dr. Zamora's commitment to equity, digital literacies, data rights, and intercultural understanding is clear in both her scholarship and leadership work. She has founded several global learning networks including Equity Unbound (#unboundeq) and Networked Narratives (#netnarr), and was Co-Chair of ALT's #OER20 conference on 'Care in Openness'.

Autumm Caines

Autumm Caines

Autumm Caines is an Instructional Designer at the University of Michigan - Dearborn in the Hub for Teaching and Learning Resources, prior to which she held professional appointments at St. Norbert College and Capital University. She holds a MA in Educational Technology from The Ohio State University. She also helps to organize and facilitate Open/Connected online events for the purposes of faculty development and her own practice in digital stewardship, most recently with the tags #DigCiz, #DigPINS, and #EthicalEdTech. Autumm tweets @autumm and maintains a web portfolio at https://autumm.org