Nurturing Online Communities (NOC)

NOC is back in a revised and updated format! Read on for details of our essential course for online community managers that translates concepts from the social sciences into actionable, practical steps you can take to support engagement in your own community.

Building and nurturing a community in an online environment comes with specific needs and challenges. This eight-week course is designed with community managers of scientific communities of practice in mind, and will explore a variety of social science claims about how to support increased engagement, commitment and constructive behavior in online communities. 

Where NOC fits in CSCCE’s community manager training catalog

NOC is an elective course in the CSCCE Community Manager Certification Program, although you may take the course even if you are not working towards CSCCE community manager certification.


To enroll in Nurturing and Stewarding Engaged Online Communities (NOC) all learners must first complete Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals and be actively managing a community, collaboration, or team. 

We can make exceptions to the CEF prerequisite in some circumstances, e.g., for prior CEFP Fellows. Please contact to discuss your specific circumstances. 

Course overview

This course will explore social science claims about how people behave in online communities to inform actions that you might take to address emergent or ongoing challenges in the communities that you manage. 

In this seminar-style course, participants will engage with instructors and each other in regular discussions, guided by the course textbook (more information below). The course will cover 6 topics related to managing online communities and each week we will spend a 90-minute lesson reviewing the corresponding chapter of the textbook, discussing themes identified by staff, and working together on a case study to apply the concepts. Later the same week, learners will spend a 90-minute Co-Lab working in breakouts on a CSCCE-designed activity to apply a translation of the core concepts to their own community, followed by a debrief.

Homework each week will consist of reading the course text and a short (one page) case study for a total time commitment of 4 hours per week.

Course syllabus and learning objectives

Week one: Introduction and welcome sessions

In two 60-minute intro sessions, learners will consider their own communities and their goals for the course, as well as learning about the communities and tools used by their classmates. 

Week two: Why online communities – and how does technology and community management work together?

Learners will explore the unique features and opportunities afforded by online communities and identify the specific technical requirements of their own community. They will also consider how technical needs play out alongside community management in their community. 

Week three: Encouraging contributions in online communities 

Participants will start to explore social science design claims and how design levers might be used to address specific desired outcomes in an online community. They’ll consider the ethical implications of balancing technical and human interventions to drive member behavior and create an internal ethics statement for their own community. 

Week four: Encouraging commitment in online communities 

Participants will explore four different types of commitment that community members may feel towards a community. Then, they will use a CSCCE exercise to determine which types of commitment are most appropriate for the life cycle stage of their own community and which activities might support the flourishing of commitment. 

Week five: Regulating behavior

Participants will explore negative behavior and moderation in online communities and the steps that a community manager can take to support positive interactions. In Co-Lab, learners will work through the balance of technical and human moderation available to them and describe their own moderation policy.

Week six: Onboarding for new members

Learners will explore the four stages of a successful onboarding process and the community member needs that are met by each stage. They will then design or review the onboarding process for their own community, leaving with an actionable plan to encourage member activity early in the member’s journey.

Week seven: Launching new online communities

In this penultimate week of the course, and the last chapter of the book, participants will consider the challenges of launching new online communities. In a final activity, pulling together many of the learnings from the course as a whole, they will review the content plan for the launch of an example community. 

Week eight: Graduation

For their graduation, learners will complete and submit a two-page design brief document using a CSCCE template. In it, they will outline how they will use the design claims from the book to address a current or anticipated challenge in their own community. Assignments will be reviewed by staff.

Graduation itself will involve a combination of presentations of design brief documents and a game of Lingo Bingo, to consolidate the new vocabulary gained during the course.

Course outputs

This course, like all CSCCE trainings, is designed to be highly practical and respect learners’ busy lives. Worksheets, templates, and scaffolded activities, plus facilitated debriefs, will minimize the time required from learners outside of the two weekly classes.

By the end of the course you will have:

  • Completed a design brief document to outline how you will use the design claims from the book to address a current or anticipated challenge in your own online community
  • Completed a technology needs map to identify the different technical features your community needs, depending on its purpose and how these sit alongside the community management function.
  • Written an ethics statement about your design choices in managing your community 
  • Completed a worksheet to outline how you will balance technical and human moderation functions in your community 
  • Completed an onboarding plan for members of your community using a CSCCE worksheet

Graduation from the course is dependent on successful completion of all of these activities.

Course text

Building Successful Online Communities by Kraut and Resnick. All learners are requested to purchase a copy of the book upon confirmation of course enrollment.  


This course is led by two members of the CSCCE training team: 

  • Lou Woodley, Director
  • Camille Santistevan, Director of Learning
  • Adrienne Gauthier, Trainer and Learning Program Manager
  • Alice Martinic, Trainer and Curriculum Assistant


Coming soon!

Included in the course fee

  • Week one introductory activities to get to know members of your cohort
  • Group activities that intentionally match you with other community managers who are working in similar contexts
  • Custom worksheets and exercises that help you apply key community management frameworks to your specific context
  • A dedicated cohort channel in CSCCE’s Slack community of practice where you can share ideas and resources with your classmates and facilitators
  • A template design brief document to create a final plan to apply what you learned during the course to a specific challenge that you can share with your team and/or supervisor

Participants in the CSCCE community manager certification program will also receive:

  • Assessment and feedback on select course assignments
  • digital badge to confirm your graduation from the course (dependent on completion of all course requirements)

Office hours

For an additional fee, we can also provide individualized office hours during the course. These six, hour-long one-to-one sessions with a member of the CSCCE training team include:

  • Review of your homework / worksheets
  • An opportunity to explore your questions about the course materials and your answers to the activities
  • A weekly tip sheet for your supervisor to help to bridge the gap between what you’re learning during the course and implementation within your organization. These include a short summary of the topics covered and suggested questions for discussion together. 

Places for office hours are limited so please contact us early if you’d like to add this to your course participation:  

Past session


A pilot version of this course, #NOC21W, ran on Tuesdays and Thursday at 12pm Eastern from 16 March – 23 April 2021.

Related consultancy offerings

CSCCE staff have extensive experience deploying and supporting the adoption of online tools. We can work with you to design and run focus groups to identify member needs, scope out platform testing plans, design onboarding materials and processes, and help you to craft an initial content strategy. 

If you’d like to learn more about our consulting services on this topic, please email to schedule a conversation.