How can a community spirit be encouraged and supported for students studying in online-distance learning?

My study proposal is grown out of a recognition of an observed frustration these students feel towards their online distance study where there appears to be a perception that face-to-face study might be more beneficial and particularly more social in terms of peer group study opportunities. The long-term intention of this research would be to increase satisfaction and retention at the college and promote further, the social community experience and opportunities we offer.