How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses? Compared to traditional education, online learning communities offer more opportunities for learner-to-learner engagement (Laureate, n.d.). Through online learning communities learners exchange ideas and information with more and further flung peers than is possible in traditional educational settings. This aggregation of multiple intelligence (Gardner, 2003) exposes learners to different learning styles, which can increase student satisfaction and both real and perceived learning (Gilbert & Han, 2002).
What are the essential elements of online community building? The goal on an online learning community is “a sense of co-created knowledge and meaning” (Laureate, n.d.). Essential elements are those that support that goal, including:
• Orientation to online learning and to the course
• Navigation that is intuitive and clear for learners with varying degrees of technical ability
• Presence of the facilitator or instructor early and often
• Invitation to students to post a bio of themselves
• Feedback that is timely, specific, and supportive (Laureate, n.d.).
How can online learning communities be sustained? The long-term health of an online learning community depends on robust and ongoing co-creation of learning experiences in which learners and facilitators participate and evolve to the fullness of their abilities (Laureate, n.d.).
What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction? Having been a member of an online learning community for 14 months, I know that community is a prerequisite for effective online instruction. You don't have to take my word for it: “Knowledge is literally the set of connections between entities, or the adjustment of the strengths of those connections,” (Downes, 2012) and “Experiences with the environment are critical to learning,” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).
What did you learn that will help you become a more effective instructor in the future? I learn most about this by example, and I will seek to replicate the successes of some of my online professors who are:
• Organized – Online learning is fast-paced and intense. Instructors with excellent time and project management skills afford their students the best opportunities to interact with information and each other and thus, make deeper connections with the course material.
• Present – Online instructors who establish social presence in the community set a tone of openness and collaboration. Instructors who are present are able to probe for understanding and challenge learners to reflect deeply on course material, so they can enrich the group discussions.
• Clear – Instructors who give clear direction enable students to deliver as expected and experience mastery of course material.
Downes, S. (2012). Connectivism and Connective Knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks.
Ertmer, P. and Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), pp. 50-72.
Gardner, H. (2003, April 21). Multiple intelligences after 20 years. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. Retrieved from http://www.pz.harvard.edu/Pls/HG_MI_after_20_years.pdf.
Gilbert, J.E. & Han, C.Y. (2002). Arthur: A personalized instructional system. Journal of Network and Computing Applications, 22(3), 149-160.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Online Learning Communities [DVD] Baltimore, MD