Wisdom Wall

Relationships are key to fostering culturally responsive online teaching practices that support the success of our diverse student population in the California Community College system. This is especially true for Latinx students, whose concept of educación is predicated on such a relationship. Relationships are founded on trust and that can be difficult to establish in an online class, especially when students experience self-doubt about whether they have what it takes to succeed in a college class.

The Wisdom Wall is a practice that helps to reduce student anxiety at the start of an online class and build a foundation of trust upon which meaningful relationships are more likely to develop. Online instructors should take a variety of approaches to ensure students feel welcome at the start of a class and leveraging the power of student voices in this effort is especially powerful. When students hear messages about your class from their peers, they’re more likely to be convinced by them. This is why the Wisdom Wall is such a powerful community-building practice. The concept is simple.

  • At the end of an online course:
    • Reflect back: Ask your students to reflect on their semester-long experience. Encourage them to think back to how they felt that first week as they were getting oriented to the course, their new instructor, and their peers. How did they feel? And how did things change over time? What helped them succeed? What do they know now that they wish they had known then?
    • Share forward: Provide a place for student to share these reflections. Make it clear to them that their audience is not you, but your future online students. The tool you use to create the place to share can be as simple as a Canvas Page that students are granted edit access to or a Google Doc. For extra community-building power, use a tool that invites students to comment in video or voice: like Flipgrid or VoiceThread. When students can hear each others’ inflection and emotion, messages resonate on a deeper level. Voice and video also helps our students because it allows them to see and hear other students that are like them. This common bond helps student feel that they do belong and they can succeed! If you use a voice or video tool, these comments will need to be captioned or transcribed.
  • At the start of an online course:
    • Share: Give your incoming students access to the comments from your past students. Include this in your Getting Started module/area of your course. Make it one of their first assignment for them to complete so they feel a sense of connection and empowerment right off the bat!
    • Reflect: In a discussion forum or other student-student interaction tool, ask students to discuss on one thing from the Wisdom Wall that helped them feel more comfortable and why.
  • Bonus! Not only will the Wisdom Wall support your students’ successful start to your online class, but you will also learn a great deal about your students’ experiences and how they experience your online class!

Here is an excerpt of one of my past Wisdom Walls (designed with VoiceThread):

Have you used the Wisdom Wall in your online class? Please leave a comment below to share your experiences or tips for modifying this practice. Thanks for sharing.


Posted in Articles, Course Design Showcase, humanizing, Online Teaching, Rubric Section B.

Michelle (@brocansky) is Faculty Mentor, Online Teaching & Learning for @ONE and CVC-OEI and author of Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies. Michelle began teaching in the CCC system in 1999, has been teaching online since 2003, and has been an online educational developer since 2009. She also teaches the History of Photography online for Mt. San Jacinto College. Learn more about Michelle at brocansky.com or connect with her on Twitter @brocansky.


  1. I completely agree in establishing a safe, comfortable environment for effective, sensitive communication and learning to occur.
    Just like my face to face start of the semester, all students answer (3) questions: 1. Your name/nick name 2 Where are you originally from? 3.Do you have any experience in (tennis, volleyball, – whatever the course), and if yes, explain your previous experience/involvement

  2. I completely agree in getting to know each other’s backgrounds and experience will better help our connection to one another as well as the instructor.

  3. As a new student to CCSF, it is important to establish a safe, consistent relationship with each student as well as the entire class as a whole.

  4. I find it comforting to know which students speak Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, French etc., so that other students in the class can identify with similar 1st language speaking students. Also being aware of each other’s first language encourages a heightened sensitivity to one another not speaking English

  5. Knowing each other’s personal experience with subject matter, allows students to work with fellow classmates within the same skill set.

  6. Allowing students to communicate with one another by way of posts, flip grid, or voice thread further keeps the students connected and engaged with one another.

  7. Pingback: 5 Actionable Strategies to Humanize Your Course – BC Academic Technology

  8. Pingback: Renegade Toolkit: Four Ways to Increase Retention and Student Engagement – BC Academic Technology

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