Building a virtual campus with Noodle Partners This post originally appeared on the Canvas LMS blog here. It takes a village to build an excellent learning environment for online students. But beyond effective instructional design and rock-solid tech support, how do you help online students feel like they’re actually part of the community that surrounds them? It’s a question as old as online higher education itself, and one that we at Noodle Partners are hard at work trying to solve. What’s the digital equivalent of walking through the quad, or checking out flyers in the student center? Where do online students go to shoot the breeze with their peers and professors? The answers lie in the largely untapped potential of the various LTI integrations that Canvas allows and encourages. Noodle Partners works to identify the best tech and service providers in the EdTech marketplace, then brings them into our network to offer their integrated services to our partner programs. Part of the action The most memorable learning experiences are ones in which students directly participate (I vividly recall my earth sciences professor asking students to run in circles while spinning to demonstrate the earth’s rotation). But the barrier of a screen poses a challenge to these sorts of fun, teachable experiences. The Noodle Partners solution: collaborate with Forio, a company that offers both off-the-shelf and custom-built interactive simulations designed for engaging digital learning environments. By integrating Forio simulations directly into Canvas, we’re making learning experiences more custom, memorable and fun. Virtual school, real-life friends Organic, post-lecture conversations with peers effectively reinforce course content and, simply put, make school more fun. It’s important to be able to clarify concepts with fellow students and bounce around opinions and ideas in a natural, unstructured way. How do you facilitate that sort of social interaction online without making it feel forced and inauthentic? The Noodle Partners solution: work closely with Yellowdig, a community-building tool that creates private social spaces geared towards online learning environments. We recently helped Yellowdig design a platform specifically meant to emulate the Canvas experience to reduce friction. It’s a smooth, natural way for students to transition from formal learning to unstructured social interaction all within the LMS. Making online “home” A major source of value for graduate programs is the rich networking opportunities students find amongst their peers and professors. Online environments may seem inherently less conducive to networking, but with a little elbow grease and creativity, we’re building inviting digital spaces that facilitate natural peer-to-peer interactions. The Noodle Partners solution: for one of our top-ranked business school partners, we’re building a virtual student center nestled inside Canvas and designed to provide online MBA students with a genuine sense of belonging within the school community. What’s special about this digital student-centered space is that it is accessible to students wherever they go– through mobile devices and desktop. The site is themed around the existing student center on the university’s physical campus and integrates key elements of the school ecosystem. It even facilitates student participation in events and co-curricular activities. Interested in creating a social learning environment for your online programs? Reach out to learn more at email@example.com.