Online Learning Communities

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

Learning communities impact student learning and satisfaction within an online course because of the different peer-to-peer interaction within the community. An online community of peers can make a course more satisfactory because it can make the student more involved in the course because their peers can help draw ideas from them when they are stuck. In the video Online Learning Communities Dr. Pratt states that peers “challenging each other rather than just supporting each other … they can challenge and bring things out” (Laureate Education). This challenging of peers helps to not only motivate their fellow students but also can help the student in a time of need when that might be having a hard time understand a lesson or not able to find an answer. I know that many times in my courses I have learned a new perspective from reading my classmates responses to discussion prompts.

The students also leave an online course with more reflective because “part of the work of the online learning community is to reflect” (Laureate Education). The students also have a deeper understanding for the content taught to them because they not only learn the material but, also have to explain and discuss the material with their peers.

  • What are the essential elements of online community building?

The essential elements of an online community are people, purpose, and process. I will explain each of these elements individually below:

People: “without people there is no community” (Laureate Education). This element does not mean just the individual in a course but also how they interact with each other. The way the community is set up for students to interact is known as the “method” (Laureate Education). When the student use this method to interact with each other they are sharing their own “social presences” or “a sense of who the other is in that communication process” (Laureate Education). In a good online community students will be able to interact with one another and establish their social presence.

Purpose: The purpose of a community is the reason or way you bring people together in that community, “students coming together to take an online class, that is the purpose that connects them” (Laureate Education). This element brings about the rules for the student on how they will interact in the course, how often they are expected to participate in the course and “institutional kinds of guidelines and policies” (Laureate Education) that will be in effect in the community.

Process: The process is how the course is taught or “the way in which the course is delivered” (Laureate Education). In an online community the process of how the course is taught is different from a face to face classroom. In an online community the student to student interaction and empowering students to take responsibility for their own education is in best process. Students should be encouraged to interact with one another and learning comes from collaborative learning where students help each other learn and understand content instead of the instructor simply explaining it to them.

  • How can online learning communities be sustained?

One of the most important ways an instructor can sustain a learning community is be personally reaching out and touching the lives of his or her students. The most important time to do this is in the first two weeks of class or “if something happens, the student seems to disappear you reach out”. (Laureate Education) Reaching out to students will help them understand that you are not just some robot behind their monitor but an actual living human being. Reaching out also shows the students that you care for them and their education. This makes students appreciate their instructors and gives them motivation to not only stay with the course but to do well for that instructor.

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

When community building and effective online instruction is done correctly it can provide many benefits of the students, “Student satisfaction increases. That perception of learning increases” (Laureate Education). Students also feel as if they are a part of something larger and will tend to try hard and stay with classes longer in a class with a strong online community. Learning outcomes are also stronger in an online community that focuses on students finding and expressing their social presences.

This video was quite interesting for me because I have been teaching online for almost a year now and I saw a lot of things that I currently do in my course as well as learned a few things that I need to do. I think one of the most important ideas I took away from this was contacting your students before class starts either by phone or with a personalized email. I like the idea of this because it shows the students early on that you are there to help them and also it will take away some of the anxiety of starting a new course. Also checking your course multiple times a day in the first two weeks is a wonderful suggestion, I know I always try to check my course at least once a day but I can understand and agree that in the first two weeks instructor participation is needed the most.

References:

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

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5 thoughts on “Online Learning Communities

  1. Great post Daniel. You made a comment bout teachers reaching to students if they seem to have disappeared. That made me think of something. I have taught face-to-face classes for the past ten years. I have had as many as 130 students. It was very difficult to reach out to students who needed. I know for a fact that I neglect many students because there were just so many.

    Do you think the class size of an online course is an important consideration? Should be a limit to the number of students in a course. Could there ever be too many students in an online community? If there are a large number of students in a course, could the quality of the course and the ability for the instructor to interact with students could be diminished?

  2. I too appreciated the discussion around instructor participation. Thinking back to my inception into completely online instruction, (I had completed another degree through a hybrid program) it took me a while to understand that while the instructors were fully engaged in the course and their presence was obvious, they were not there to behave in the same way that a professor in a lecture hall would. I would often pose questions to the instructor within the online discussion rooms and the professor would invariably redirect the question to involve the other students. I now understand that this was in the interest of facilitating co-constructed knowledge.

  3. Z. says:

    Hi Daniel,
    I totally understand your comment about learning a lot for my own practices as an online learning facilitator. When I was a classroom teacher, I would send home a beginning of the year welcome letter to my students prior to the first day of school. It was great. But, this never dawned on me as a facilitator of online learning.

    So, I guess this makes me think about what other instructional things I did to build a community in a F2F setting that actually would translate well to an online one. Keeping in mind that you cannot simply transfer F2F to online from a curriculum perspective, but what about how we do build learning communities?

  4. Rosa Gallardo says:

    Daniel,
    Definitely, “challenging each other rather than just supporting each other … they can challenge and bring things out” (Laureate Education, 2010). This week, I realized that being an online learner at the Walden’s online learning community, participating in discussion groups, challenging one another, and participating in group projects I am learning to be an online facilitator. I coincide with Asha that all those aspects contribute to facilitate co-constructed knowledge.
    You have also mentioned the importance of contacting the students before the class starts to alleviate their anxiety and the active instructor participation in first two weeks. These two doings are indispensable in engaging the online learner and making him feel supported from day one.
    -Rosa

    References
    Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

  5. Daniel,

    Excellent blog post. I agree as well that in order for the learners to be front and center in the learning environment, it is up to the facilitator to ensure student engagement is a top priority. A student who is engaged is much more motivated. As we have learned from so many of the classes we have taken together, it is important to ensure there are many opportunities for classmates to share and learn together. I feel it should be a requirement for everyone to participate in discussion as well as group activities otherwise there will be some students who, unfortunately, would choose not to take part. I look forward to reading more of your blog as we go throughout the course.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Krista

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