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.