Learning Environment

Establishing a positive learning environment where students feel safe, respected, and able to take intellectual risks is a critical part of teaching, whether you are in person or online.

Watch this 2-minute video from Edutopia about how to create an engaging online learning environment for students. 1 Then explore the how-to resources and examples below.

Develop Class Norms

Think of your learning management system and video conferencing platform as your digital classroom. Just as you establish norms and expectations for your physical classroom, you will want to do the same for your digital classroom.

For Your LMS

Check out these resources from teachers in the field.

For Video Conferences

Check out these examples from teachers in the field as well as district partners.

Establish Routines

In a physical classroom, you teach your students routines for all sorts of activities – how to ask for help, how to work with a group, what to do when you are absent. These routines will look different in a virtual environment, but they are still a critical part of your online classroom! Check out the resources below for ideas for how to establish these routines.

Build Relationships

Strong relationships are the cornerstone of your classroom community. Helping students feel connected to their teachers and their peers is even more important in a virtual setting.

Record Your Own Videos

Your students will appreciate seeing your face and hearing your voice! Consider recording videos to share updates or explain instructions.

Select the LMS your district uses.

Incorporate Discussions

While class discussions may look different in an online environment, providing opportunities for students to share their ideas with their peers and to respond to each other is still important! Asynchronous class discussions promote connection while also providing students flexibility in when they participate.

Select the LMS your district uses.

Make Time for Check Ins

Read the article Make a Deeper Connection with Virtual Student Check-ins by Shelly Sanchez Terrell for ideas about how to use quick student check-ins to build connections with your students. 10

Some of the tools mentioned in the article for check-ins include:

In-Depth Resources

Looking for a more in-depth exploration of relationship-building in the online classroom? Check out the follow resources:

Read the journal article Building Relationships and Increasing Engagement in the Virtual Classroom: Practical Tools for the Online Instructor by Jeffrey Martin. 11

Watch this 10-minute video from Marcella Sheler about building relationships in a remote environment. 12


  1. Edutopia. (2020, April 8). Keeping students engaged in digital learning {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/-LybF2YlWn4
  2. Scheffer, J. (2014, September 5). Who’s making the rules in your Google Classroom? Make IT happen: Innovation & technology in the classroom. https://jennscheffer.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/whos-making-the-rules-in-your-google-classroom/
  3. Ms. Elias. (2017, March 20). Google Classroom rules @Wagner with Ms. Elias {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/r7F1B–dgQA
  4. Mrs. S. (2020, April 6). Netiquette: A student’s guide to digital etiquette {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/OWw3aEw1SFo
  5. Miller, M. (2020, April 8). Student tips for successful video calls {Infographic}. Ditch that textbook. https://i0.wp.com/ditchthattextbook.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Student-tips-for-successful-video-calls.png
  6. Baltimore County Public Schools. (n.d.) Google Meet for BCPS learning at home for parents & students. https://reisterstownes.bcps.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_144613/File/Google_Meets_for_Learning_at_Home_for_Parent-Student.pdf
  7. Anne Arundel County Public Schools. (n.d.) Netiquette – intermediate/middle {Infographic}. E-learning teacher toolkit FAQs. https://www.aacps.org/cms/lib/MD02215556/Centricity/Domain/1755/Netiquette%20-%20Intermediate_Middle.pdf
  8. Zimny, J. (2020, April 14). Online classroom routines. National Institute for STEM Education. https://blog.nise.institute/online-classroom-routines-making-online-instruction-work-now
  9. Anne Arundel County Public Schools. (2020, April 24). How AACPS teachers are organizing information & assignments in your Google Classroom. E-learning teacher toolkit FAQs. https://www.aacps.org/cms/lib/MD02215556/Centricity/Domain/1755/Organizing%20Your%20Google%20Classroom%20Examples.pdf
  10. Terrell, S. S. Make a deeper connection with virtual student check-ins! Teacher Reboot Camp. https://teacherrebootcamp.com/2020/05/virtualcheckins/
  11. Martin, J. (2019). Building relationships and increasing engagement in the virtual classroom: Practical tools for the online instructor. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1204379.pdf
  12. Sheler, M. {Marcella Sheler}. NEA remote learning: Building relationships {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/uzVNkK61BVM
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