Skip to main content Accessibility Statement

This student-led project explored issues and themes relevant to how higher education institutions and students’ associations/unions have recreated student communities in an online environment during the COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020, what enablers and barriers this has created and provides the opportunity to showcase and share examples of practice.

Successfully building an online community requires more than simply setting up a space on an online platform and inviting participants. The space should meet the individual needs of the community and should be structured and managed appropriately to reinforce this.

Once the community has launched, the participants have to be supported properly. This includes setting expectations; from camera protocol to how you will manage contributions and deal with any disruptive behaviour.

Download our top tips for more information and explore examples of online communities in our case studies

Top tips for building online communities

Publication date: 09 Sep 2021

Case studies


Innovation in digital communities, 25 May 2021

The project culminated in an online event that provided an opportunity to hear from students and staff from across the sector, explore challenges and share success stories. Speaking in his keynote address, Alastair Robertson, Director of Academic Development and Student Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University, emphasised that there is no going back to things exactly as they were before, and the institutions that thrive in this new blended learning environment will be those who successfully replicate the intangible assets of the student experience.

The programme followed three core threads presenting case studies exploring:

  • Student Representative Communities (University of Edinburgh, Robert Gordon University and University of the West of Scotland)
  • Extracurricular Communities (Scotland’s Rural College, Heriot-Watt University and Dundee & Angus College)
  • Academic Communities (University of Strathclyde, Open University in Scotland and University of Dundee).

In the final session of the day there was a lively panel discussion featuring:

  • Shona Littlejohn, Depute Director (Student Experience and Widening Access), Open University in Scotland
  • Lewis Hill, Doctoral Researchers Group, University of Strathclyde
  • Kevin Hamilton, Co-President for the South-West Region, Scotland’s Rural College Students’ Association
  • Aishwarya Tiku, Vice-President Education, University of the West of Scotland.

Watch the session recordings

The panel focused on the topic of developing digital communities, the benefits and challenges that these create and looked to the future of student communities post-pandemic.

We would like to thank the sparqs team for their support and all of our speakers and contributors for what was a very rewarding, high energy and positive event.