Online Learning Communities

How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?

According to Dr. Palloff and Dr. Pratt an online learning community is “a community of students and faculty who explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content” (Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.) ). Further learning both learning and student satisfaction are greatly improved in well developed online learning communities because the community is engaged in the common goal … “a sense of co-created knowledge and meaning.”

What are the essential elements of online community building?

There are five interdependent elements related to online community building. Specifically, people that make up the community, the purpose for the community, process or way communication is delivered in the community, method and social presence. Social presence refers to creating a recognizable online persona (i.e., a reflection of who we are).

How can online learning communities be sustained?

Online learning communities can be ongoing and successful only if all parties involved take responsibility for active participation. The instructor fulfills the role of facilitator and mentor, provides a safe environment for the students, and the students take responsibility for interacting within the community, participating regularly and becoming “scholar practitioners.”

What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction?

There are several benefits from participation in a successful learning community model such as increased student satisfaction, increased perception of learning, an innate sense of belonging or feeling as if they are a part of something larger than themselves and social pressure to succeed. On the other hand, if the online learning environment is not appropriately developed and/or the instructor/facilitator does not create a welcoming environment, the students may quickly succumb to feelings of isolation and loneliness and possibly drop the course before giving the class or themselves a chance to acclimate accordingly.

References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.) [Video]. “Online learning communities.” Retrieved from http://sylvan.com.

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5 thoughts on “Online Learning Communities

  1. I believe that the online persona that you referred to is an imperative element of the online community. It is difficult for some to interact in a academically social community without face-to-face contact. I have found it difficult to connect with any instructor as a facilitator and equal partner in the learning process (Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.) [video]). My very traditional outlook to education makes it impossible for me to even wrap my mind around it. And although I appreciate a learning environment that is heavily focused on academics and not the social interaction portion of learning; I was somewhat terrified of the social part of the online community I have experienced.

    I am now more comfortable with the concept of the learning community being a co-created community of knowledge and meaning, but I can see that this takes time and effort for the instructor. I have made it through all the first two weeks because of the objectives I have set for myself, but I can see what a challenge it may be for certain students that may not get a personal interaction with the instructor when they haven’t participated in the first two weeks.

    I liked the way your post was structured. Thanks for the information.

    Melissa Hernandez

    Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.) [Video]. “Online learning communities.” Retrieved from http://sylvan.com.

  2. Lynn,
    Your post was very to the point. I enjoyed that. I find it interesting that the video referenced “social pressure” to succeed (Laureate Education, n.d.). I don’t know that I have ever felt pressure to succeed in an online class, because I am not aware of how others are doing in a class. I can read their posts, but that doesn’t make me feel the pressure to be more driven in my learning. There is nothing to really compare except for postings on the discussion board. Have you ever felt that pressure?

    Chris

    References
    Laureate Education Inc. (n.d.). [Video]. “Online Learning Communities.” Retrieved from: http://sylvan.com

    • Chris,

      Thank you for responding to my blog.

      In answer to your question, no. I have never felt a social pressure to succeed. I have, however, felt the pressure to contribute. Being a die-hard individualist from a family of non-academics I usually have to push myself to regularly post responses. I lurk a LOT. I read others posts and do not want to waste anyone’s time with something less than original. I feel pressure not to let anyone else down. That pressures me to try and post early so I have something meaningful to say other than I agree… LOL. I guess it is just a different type of pressure.

      Lynn

  3. Hi Lynn,

    I like the way you broke down the video we watched this week. You wrote “the instructor fulfills the role of facilitator and mentor, provides a safe environment for the students, and the students take responsibility for interacting within the community, participating regularly and becoming “scholar practitioners.” Boettcher & Conrad (2010) noted one of the four elements of the structured learning experience is “the faculty mentor who directs, supports, and assesses the learner” (p. 21). How as instructors do we handle a situation where we create a safe environment for the students but we still do not get interaction from our students? Is there a way we can address students that are not willing to embrace the online community? The video noted we can try and do ice breakers but do you have any ideas of other ways to get students involved and adjusted to the online environment? Thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Jenn

    Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    • Jenn,

      I experienced similar issues in the secondary classroom, just from the other side of the coin. Engagement is not a new consideration, rather, an ongoing one. This week’s ice-breaker had the most interaction on the student lounge board I have ever seen in all my classes. I believe it is because it was not just who we are biographical information, but it was something to help us connect with the rest of the group and have a little fun. Fun does make a difference.

      I believe strongly in the instructor persona – being the real deal. I am a pretty direct person. That does not usually garner me much favor, however, with teens it went a long way to bridging the generational gap. I was honest, forthright and sincere and the students knew it. I believe those traits transfer across any medium. What do you think?

      Blessings,
      Lynn

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