Groups Best Practices

Making the Most of Your Humanities Commons Group

Once you’ve created a group on Humanities Commons, you may find yourself asking a number of questions:

  • What do I do next?
  • How do I get people do join my group?
  • How do groups promote exciting academic activity and collaboration?
  • How do I encourage members to post more?
  • What else can I do with my group besides sharing CFPs and CORE deposits?

To help you answer these questions and make the most of your Humanities Commons group, we’ve compiled a list of best practices for group moderators. Please be sure to first visit the collection of pages within our groups guide and FAQ. Each of these pages outlines the basic instructions and features for using our groups.

Group Features

Many of these features have more detailed instructions and FAQs in the Help & Support section of Humanities Commons.

  1. Activity: This tab allows you to see and access the most recent activity from members of the group.
  2. Discussion: This tab allows you to create and participate in discussions with group members.
  3. Events: This tab contains a calendar where you can post group events and events of interest to the group.
  4. From CORE: This tab shows the most recent core deposits from group members.
  5. Docs: Basic collaborative authoring functionality for the group. Great for collaborating on abstracts, petitions, etc.
  6. Files: A shared storage area for PDFs, images, spreadsheets, and other documents of potential group interest.
  7. Members: A tab for viewing members in the group and their profiles.
  8. Send Invites: A tab for inviting new members to the group.
  9. E-mail Options: This tab allows you to manage your e-mail subscription settings for the group.


Using Groups for Different Purposes

On Humanities Commons, there are many different groups that serve many different purposes. While creating your own group, you’ll need to decide its type and purpose. Humanities Commons offers different levels of visibility for your group. Your selection of a visibility level for the group should be directly tied to your group’s purpose.  Here are a few examples to get you started:


  • Public Group: Public groups are completely visible to everyone and anyone can join simply by clicking the “Join Group” button on the group’s page. Choosing this visibility is advisable for groups that are focused on scholarly disciplines and/or academic interests. Example Groups: Medical Humanities, Digital Humanists, Education and Pedagogy, LGBTQ Studies, etc.
  • Private Group: In private groups, users must request membership and receive acceptance in order to join the group. Private groups are still listed in the Humanities Commons group directory but their content and activity are visible only to accepted members. Choosing this visibility option is advisable if you’d like your activity to remain private while still allowing Humanities Commons users to see your group in the directory and request to join it. This setting might be especially good for committee groups. Example Groups:  2016-17 Proseminar Fellows, Graduate Students, Connected Academics, etc.
  • Hidden Group: Under this visibility setting, your group will not be listed in the groups directory or any searches. Only users who receive an invitation can join and see the group content and activity. Choosing this visibility option is advisable if you want to keep your group and its content entirely private. This might work best for groups from a specific department or school who are not looking for any outside members.

Gaining Group Members

A newly created group always feels a bit lonely. You’ll want to get people to join your group quickly because this will lead to a more active group, which will, in turn, cause even more people to join.

  • Advertise on Social Media: Use your other social media accounts (ie: Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc.) to get the word out about your Humanities Commons group. Chances are you are already connected to other like-minded academics who may be interested in your group’s topic. Ask your members to also share the group on their social media accounts.
    1. As you share your group on social media, consider what sort of posts gain traction on that specific social platform. For example, will adding images or hashtags to the post help it to both be noticed and spread? Should you highlight something specific about your group rather than just the group’s title?
    2. Celebrate exciting discussions, new CORE deposits, events, etc. that occur within your group on social media. Your followers and friends will be encouraged to join your group by the wonderful work that is taking place. 
    3. Entice potential members by gamifying the situation. Offer fun and creative incentives, such as “The tenth person to join our group will get a personal shout out on Twitter” or creating a quick digital graphic celebrating group milestones, such as the gaining of a twenty-fifth member.
  • Advertise with Existing Listservs and Communication Networks: Put out a message on an existing listserv or communication network (Slack, etc.) for your discipline or interest area, and invite people to join the group in order to share their work and participate in ongoing discussions.

When sharing invitations and information on an existing network, consider the network’s rules and community. For example, those administrating a listserv may not look kindly on an invitation to a Humanities Commons group that is advertised as a replacement for their network.


  • Advertise by Word of Mouth: Do you work with academics and educators who might be interested in joining this group? Tell them about it! Are you attending a conference which focuses on your group’s topic? Make a point to let fellow attendees know about your group while networking.

If your group is centered around a department at your university, school, or place of employment (ie: “Stony Brook University English Graduate Students”), you may also want to print out flyers advertising your group. Leave or post these in a common area, such as a break or copy room.


Encouraging Activity Within Your Group

Once you have group members, you need to make sure that your group is active. There are a number of different strategies you can take to help encourage participation within your group.


  • Low-Stakes Questions: This works just as well in online groups as it does in classrooms. If you post a low-stake question, members will feel more comfortable answering it, as it’s something that they feel confident in answering. These questions should not be the sort that would take someone a while to come up with an answer. They serve mainly to open up dialogue and allow your members to test the waters before really engaging in deeper conversations. Below are some examples.
    1. Introductions: Briefly introduce yourself before asking other members to do the same. You can provide clear guidelines or even a list of information for these introductions to include, or you can let your members come up with what they might share. The introductions can include the member’s name, institution/workplace, designation, academic interests, current research, his or her reason(s) for joining the group, and/or a fun fact.
    2. Goals: Ask members not only why they joined the group, but what they want to gain from being a member. In an ideal world, what will this group accomplish and/or provide? Their answers will not only help to spark dialogue and activity, but they may also give you new ideas about what to do with your group.
    3. Recommended Reading/Viewing/Listening: Have you recently read a book or article that touches on topics important to your group’s focus? Or maybe you’ve watched a movie or listened to an album that does the same? Craft a recommendation post that not only encourages your members to check out your recent discovery, but welcomes them to share their own recent finds. Even if you don’t have anything in mind to recommend to the group, you can craft a simple discussion post that asks others to share the things they’ve recently discovered and loved.
    4. Victories: Start a discussion by asking members to share a recent professional or personal victories. You might want to make this a weekly or monthly tradition if it goes over well with your members. Sharing victories will not only inspire good feelings in your group members, but this activity can also potentially become a treasure trove a good ideas and best practices. For example, members may share a lesson plan or classroom activity that worked really well with their students.
  • Group Traditions: Creating weekly, monthly, or even annual traditions on your group can give your members even more of a reason to keep up to date with your group. They can also help to create a group culture of community and support. These traditions can take place in a discussion topic thread that you start.
    1. Victories: Ask group members to share their victories of the week/month/year. These victories can be big or small, personal or professional. What matters is that they matter enough for your group members to want to share.  Sharing victories will not only inspire good feelings in your group members and dialogue in your group, but this activity can also potentially become a treasure trove a good ideas and best practices. For example, members may share a lesson plan or classroom activity that worked really well with their students.
    2. Check-Ins: Have group members share something that they are celebrating or something that they have learned or discovered that week/month/year.
    3. Celebrations: Highlight and celebrate the work shared by your members on CORE and other areas of the Commons. When group members deposit their work in CORE and share it with your group, make a point to shout out their contribution on your group’s discussion page. A simple comment reminding other members to check out the new deposit and thanking that member for sharing it could help to encourage further participation. For example, members may begin shouting out each other or sharing their other work (ie: blogs, digital projects, etc).
  • Group Events: The “Discussion” option in HC groups can allow people from across the globe to connect and ‘hang out.’ Take advantage of these affordances by scheduling times for digital group events. Remember to use the group’s calendar once your event is scheduled!
    1. Book Clubs: Select a book/article/movie/etc. pertinent to your group. It might be easier to start with something small like an article. Rather than choosing the text yourself, you may also want to create a poll and/or ask your members what they’d like to examine. You might also want to choose articles uploaded and written by group members. Once you’ve decided on a text, encourage your members to read the text by a certain date. On the scheduled date and time, you and your group members can meet in the discussion group to chat about the text. Book club meet-ups can become a monthly tradition for your group. After the meeting, you or another group member can post a summary of the discussion.
    2. Topic Meets: Choose a topic or question pertinent to your group. Schedule a time for group members to meet online to discuss the issue.
    3. Expert Meets: If you find out that a member of your group has a recent accomplishment (ie: a great lesson plan, a published book, completion of a digital project, etc.), ask them if they would be willing to discuss it with the group. Schedule a time and date for the group to meet digitally. Encourage the “expert” to have a short 10-15 minute presentation of their accomplishment and for group members to arrive to the digital meet-up with questions for the presenter.


Have you done anything to promote your Humanities Commons group? How did it go? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments below or tweet us at @humcommons!

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