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Teaching Tuesdays: How I'm Teaching Now: Building Interactive Communities

The P3 Collaboratory is pleased to continue “How I'm Teaching Now,” a series highlighting the innovative pedagogical work being done by RU-N instructors. Today’s contribution is from Dr. Binneh Minteh (School of Criminal Justice & School of Public Affairs and Administration).

One of the most effective teaching techniques I’ve found for connecting students to course content and each other is the creation of interactive learning communities. Interactive communities are small groups of students working together for the common purpose of completing course assignments. In an interactive community group, students build a sense of community while discussing ideas and solutions to a given course assignment. Through my teaching, I’ve observed that the use of structured interactive communities can be motivational while quickly bonding students together and preparing them to take ownership of their coursework.

In the transition to remote instruction, I used Canvas and Webex to effectively build interactive communities by setting up small groups for discussion and group assignments. I have used both random and clustered approaches to forming groups, based on assignment type, student interests, and in some cases, scheduling and availability. With the pandemic limiting our in-person options, instructors can use the university’s teaching and learning technology to build interactive communities for online instruction.

Creating and utilizing small groups for discussions, projects, and team assignments is one of the most powerful teaching tools in an instructor’s toolbox, one that sets up students for success in both online and in-person instruction. The impact of interactive communities in synchronous and asynchronous learning environments has been identified as an effective tool for "provid[ing] a salient sense of learner identity and sense of community.” (Nortvig et al., 2018)

Author Bio:

Dr. Binneh Minteh teaches courses in the School of Criminal Justice and the School of Public Affairs and Administration. He is also a former Gambian Army First Lieutenant and was commanding officer of The Gambia National Gendarmerie Training School. Dr. Minteh earned his PhD in Global Affairs from Rutgers University-Newark.


Nortvig, A., et al (2018). “A Literature Review of the Factors Influencing E-Learning and Blended Learning in Relation to Learning Outcome, Student Satisfaction and Engagement,” Electronic Journal of E-Learning Vol. 16.1: 46-55.


Canvas's Instructional Guide for Creating Groups: "What are Groups?"

Archived Recording of "Large Online Course Strategies" SMARTeaching Workshop (March 1, 2021)

This workshop covered several ways to create and use intentional communities, particularly Canvas "Groups" and "Sections" (and the differences between the two).

Would you like to share how you’re teaching now with the RU-N community? Interested contributors should email with the subject line “How I’m Teaching Now” and include 1) name, department, courses taught in 2020; and 2) a description of proposed essay topic in 2-3 sentences.


Below is a snapshot of upcoming pedagogical training opportunities available to Rutgers faculty and graduate students, March 24-30, 2021.

Featured Workshops and Webinars:

Brought to you by the P3 Collaboratory for Pedagogy, Professional Development, and Publicly-Engaged Scholarship at Rutgers University-Newark