Online Learning Communities

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Online Learning Communities

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

Learning communities significantly impact student learning satisfaction within online courses because they allow learners to make meaning of the content through social construction. Learning communities create the environment for collaborative acquisition of knowledge which is one key to the success of an online course (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). This idea is also supported by Dr. Palloff who indicated that “the power of learning communities is learner-to-learner engagement” (Laureate Producer, 2010), and having students engaged in the online course will increase their satisfaction and as a result learning becomes a more positive experience for the learner.

What are the essential elements of online community building?

The essential elements of online community building are:

  • People: that will form the community. It can include learners, instructors, facilitators, and experts.
  • Purpose: this is defined by the main goals and attitudes that people participating in the learning community want to achieve.
  • Process: defines the way the learning community is established and how the members contribute in the community.
  • Method: this element emphasizes communication methods in the community because people might contribute using different ways such as participating in forums, synchronous discussions, live chats, or sharing files that others can access at different times.
  • Social presence: refers to how others perceive you online and how you present yourself in online media. Avatars and digital profiles are good examples of how people can establish a social presence.

How can online learning communities be sustained?

With an active participation of the people in the community, an instructor that assists learners in creating knowledge and maintaining a high level of interactivity and participation (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). Also with a safe environment that makes students feel warm and inviting (Laureate Producer, 2010). Additionally, the online environment should be easy to navigate to promote participation.

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

The online learning experience will be effective if it is designed in such a way that engages learners to actively participate in the construction of knowledge. But if on the contrary, the instruction is not well designed, if the activities are not engaging, or if the online environment is not safe and welcoming, then learners will have a detrimental learning experience, their motivation levels will tend to drop, and this will impact participation levels in the online learning community, which ultimately will influence in the success of the community building process.

A final thought about becoming a better online instructor:

Finally, it is important to emphasize how relevant is being part of a learning community when doing online courses because this will eliminate the feelings of isolation students might experience in this type of environment.

To ensure online learning communities are welcoming and will succeed in engaging participants it is important to create an easy to navigate course, make the participants feel welcome by establishing open communication channels with the audience, suing icebreaker activities to let learners meet their peers and the instructor, share messages and a video to let the instructor present to the class, with an instructor actively communicating with the class and encouraging participation, with constructive feedback, and with the use of activities that will encourage reflection and sharing of knowledge and experiences.


Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from Walden Library databases.



About Author


I am an electronic engineer curious about the learning and development field. I think there are many opportunities out there to fully develop our potentials.


Nick Benwell

May 11, 2017at 7:38 pm

Hi Thais, Great looking blog! A real pleasure to visit. I’m now following. Nick

    Nick Benwell

    May 11, 2017at 10:19 pm

    Let me add that you make a good point about the ease of use being a major factor in the level of learner engagement in the course. If the instruction is unclear or the layout difficult to navigate, it becomes a barrier to getting things done and this will impact the motivation to contribute to the community.


May 12, 2017at 4:13 am

I have subscribed and will be following this semester! Thanks.


May 12, 2017at 4:50 am

Hi Thais,

You have some of the best visuals attached to your posts. I’m looking forward to reading your work throughout the next several weeks. We’re almost done with the program!


    May 15, 2017at 8:39 am

    Hi Thais,

    Your suggestion around feedback is important. I’ve found that I do much better when an instructor provide feedback in a timely manner. The quick turnaround allows me time to digest the feedback and implement in the upcoming week’s activities. I find that when an instructor does not provide feedback quickly, I have a hard time knowing where I need to improve or apply feedback before the next activity is due. In addition, the lack of communication lowers my motivation to complete work in the class. Communication can make or break an online experience.




May 15, 2017at 7:44 am

Hi Thais,
Thanks for your thoughts this week. Your post is clear and very well thought out. I have a question for you, as you mentioned a “final thought” in becoming a better online instructor. Do you think it is essential for an online instructor to have participated in a course as an online student to be effective?


    May 20, 2017at 5:03 pm

    Hi Suzanne,

    Yes I think being an online student can give a good perspective to instructors on how to include engaging activities and how to participate in the online learning community to promote a participative learning environment.


May 15, 2017at 12:01 pm

Hello Thais,
The online learning community can be sustained if there is trust and transparency, when people know that they will be able to learn something useful. Everyone wants to be part of a community, so when you have a common objective and the factors mentioned above taken into consideration the learning community can be sustained. You have said it really well on your comment ”Also with a safe environment that makes students feel warm and inviting (Laureate Producer, 2010)”
Best regards,


    May 20, 2017at 5:06 pm

    Hi Noelah,

    Yes that’s right. I personally participate more if I feel I can safely share my thoughts and opinions.

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