The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities

Jianxia Du (Mississippi State University, USA), Yunyan Liu (Southwest University, China) and Robert L. Brown (Mississippi State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch004
OnDemand PDF Download:


An online learning community can be a place for vibrant discussions and the sharing of new ideas in a medium where content constantly changes. This chapter will first examine the different definitions that researchers have provided for online learning communities. It will then illuminate several key elements that are integral to online learning communities: interactivity, in both its task-driven and socio-emotional forms; collaboration, which both builds and nurtures online communities; trusting relationships, which are developed primarily through social interaction and consist of shared goals and a sense of belonging or connectedness; and communication media choices, which impact the other three elements. This chapter also provides suggestions for the practical application of these elements in the online classroom.
Chapter Preview


Since the turn of the century, the subject of the online learning community (OLC) has become a hot topic in the field of learning research. The most influential and developmental points and contributions are overviewed as follows.

Why has the OLC become more and more attractive to policy makers and researchers? Rovai (2002) suggests that the physical separation of distance education students may be one of the contributors to high dropout rates in distance education. Hill, Raven, and Han (2002) imply that the existence of community may actually decrease dropout rates by increasing a student’s sense of belonging. Community may, therefore, directly impact a student’s successful completion of coursework (Brown, 2001). An OLC can maintain many of the supportive attributes of traditional instruction at a distance. Collaboration in an OLC can provide deeper understanding of content, increased overall achievement, improved self-esteem, and higher motivation to remain on task (Looi & Ang, 2000). For their flexibility and convenience, online courses appeal to both traditional and nontraditional students. However, many students are wary or skeptical of online courses due to factors such as isolation and lack of immediate attention. Technology in an online course is another reason community is important. Technology can cause opportunity for areas of new learning (Powers & Mitchell, 1997), and community can develop around the solving of problems or the seeking of other solutions. Additionally, quality is a concern for distance educators, and some argue that online courses do not offer the personal connections available in the regular classroom (Lowell & Persichitte, 2000). Enhanced community can provide that connection and interaction that inevitably increases quality. Essentially, the majority of the literature in the field of distance education provides support for the idea that an increased sense of community will enable meaningful learning.

Educational institutions of varying levels have undergone rapid and massive transitions in the area of distance learning (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). What began as a response to the needs of non-traditional (as well as traditional) students has proven to be an extremely desirable alternative to the regular classroom for students and an exceptionally lucrative business venture for academic institutions (Palloff and Pratt, 1999). As the number of students and instructors involved with this method of teaching and learning increase, the number of online communities to support such learning will experience dramatic growth. Therefore, it is crucial that both the online instructor and the online student are aware of the characteristics associated with an OLC. The encouragement (or requirement) of interaction among the participants in an online community is based upon many of the tenets associated with the theory of Constructivism.

This chapter reviews definitions for OLC and looks closely at the literature associated with several key elements that comprise the OLC as recognized by the authors. Key elements such as interactivity, collaboration, trusting relationships (shared goals and belonging), and communication media in the online learning community are discussed in detail.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Interactivity: reciprocal communication between two or more people, the goal of which is to foster active learning and strengthen social bonds.

Communication media: a collective term for all channels or systems through which information is conveyed.

Trusting relationship: a feeling between two or more individuals of reciprocal confidence.

Collaboration: cooperation among members of a learning community who have a desire to pursue and achieve a common goal.

Learning Community: a group of diverse individuals who develop a sense of trust and connectedness through interaction and collaboration.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Harrison Hao Yang, Steve Chi-Yin Yuen
Harrison Hao Yang, Steve Chi-Yin Yuen
Chapter 1
Chien Yu, Wei-Chieh Wayne Yu, Chun Fu Lin
Dramatic changes in information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide a powerful force forthe growth of e-learning. E-learning has become... Sample PDF
Computer-Mediated Learning: What Have We Experienced and Where Do We Go Next?
Chapter 2
Clara Pereira Coutinho, João Batista Bottentuit Jr.
In this chapter the authors analyze issues and ideas regarding the next generation of e-Learning, which is already known as e-Learning 2.0 or social... Sample PDF
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0
Chapter 3
Chaka Chaka
This chapter contends that both Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web (the SW) serve as critical enablers for e-learning 2.0. It also maintains that the SW... Sample PDF
E-Learning 2.0: Web 2.0, the Semantic Web and the Power of Collective Intelligence
Chapter 4
Jianxia Du, Yunyan Liu, Robert L. Brown
An online learning community can be a place for vibrant discussions and the sharing of new ideas in a medium where content constantly changes. This... Sample PDF
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities
Chapter 5
Ke Zhang, Curtis J. Bonk
This chapter reviews the characteristics of learners of different generations. In particular, it compares their differences in terms of learning... Sample PDF
Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies
Chapter 6
Robin M. Roberts
The relationship between the Digital or Millennium Generation and Web 2.0 is investigated focusing on how post-secondary students just entering... Sample PDF
The Digital Generation and Web 2.0: E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?
Chapter 7
Jeffrey Hsu, Karin Hamilton
Adult learners have a set of specific and unique needs, and are different from traditional college students. Possessing greater maturity, interest... Sample PDF
Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success: Critical Issues and Challenges in an Adult Hybrid Distance Learning Program
Chapter 8
Dazhi Yang, Jennifer C. Richardson
Past studies indicate that students demonstrate different online interaction styles, which consist of the ways or habits students acquire knowledge... Sample PDF
Online Interaction Styles: Adapting to Active Interaction Styles
Chapter 9
Yuliang Liu
Learner satisfaction and learning is currently a very important topic in online instruction and learning. Blignaut and Trollip (2003) proposed six... Sample PDF
Strategies for Providing Formative Feedback to Maximize Learner Satisfaction and Online Learning
Chapter 10
Bo Kyeong Kim, Youngkyun Baek
Web 2.0 is changing the paradigm of using the Internet which is affecting the e-learning paradigm. In this chapter, e-learning 2.0 and its... Sample PDF
Exploring Ideas and Possibilities of Second Life as an Advanced E-Learning Environment
Chapter 11
Jeannine Hirtle, Samuel Smith
Communities of practice (CoP’s)—much touted and studied as a mechanism for teacher education and professional development—may offer environments for... Sample PDF
When Virtual Communities Click: Transforming Teacher Practice, Transforming Teachers
Chapter 12
Luiz Fernando de Barros Campos
This chapter investigates whether information technology tools typical of Web 2.0 can support Knowledge Management (KM) practices in organizations.... Sample PDF
Could Web 2.0 Technologies Support Knowledge Management in Organizations?
Chapter 13
Colleen Carmean
Anytime and all-the-time access to electronic resources, artifacts and community have changed learning practices in the workplace as surely as it... Sample PDF
E-Learning Design for the Information Workplace
Chapter 14
Paraskevi Mentzelou, Dimitrios Drogidis
The aims of Greek education system is to give to students the ability to develop the required skills, character and values that will enable them to... Sample PDF
The Impact of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to the Greek Educational Community
Chapter 15
Richard Hartshorne, Haya Ajjan, Richard E. Ferdig
In this chapter, the authors provide evidence for the potential of various Web 2.0 applications in higher education through a review of relevant... Sample PDF
Faculty Use and Perceptions of Web 2.0 in Higher Education
Chapter 16
Susanne Markgren, Carrie Eastman, Leah Massar Bloom
In this chapter, the authors explore the role of academic librarians in the e-learning 2.0 environment. Librarians are excellent partners in... Sample PDF
Librarian as Collaborator: Bringing E-Learning 2.0 Into the Classroom by Way of the Library
Chapter 17
Betül C. Özkan
Because of the ways students learn and make sense of world change, higher education institutions try to re-conceptualize this change process and... Sample PDF
Implementing E-Learning in University 2.0: Are Universities Ready for the Digital Age?
Chapter 18
Hsiu-Ting Hung
The focus of the chapter is two-fold: on one hand, it seeks theoretical understanding of literacy as social practice; on the other hand, it explores... Sample PDF
New Literacies in New Times: A Multimodal Approach to Literacy Learning
Chapter 19
Rajani S. Sadasivam, Katie M. Crenshaw, Michael J. Schoen, Raju V. Datla
The e-learning 2.0 transformation of continuing education of healthcare professionals (CE/CME) will be characterized by a fundamental shift from the... Sample PDF
Transforming Continuing Healthcare Education with E-Learning 2.0
Chapter 20
Brian Smith, Peter Reed
The excitement of Web 2.0 and E-learning 2.0 is upon us. As the use of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools continue to increase... Sample PDF
Mode Neutral: The Pedagogy that Bridges Web 2.0 and e-Learning 2.0
Chapter 21
F. R. Nordengren, Ann M. York
This chapter is a practical overview of both the theoretical, evidence-based research in pedagogy and the anecdotal, experience-based practices of... Sample PDF
Dispatches from the Graduate Classroom: Bringing Theory and Practice to E-Learning
Chapter 22
Kathryn Kennedy, Jeff Boyer, Catherine Cavanaugh, Kara Dawson
Using the theoretical framework of “craft” highlighted by Richard Sennett (2008) in The Craftsman, this chapter focuses on constructionism and the... Sample PDF
Student-Centered Teaching with Constructionist Technology Tools: Preparing 21st Century Teachers
Chapter 23
Clara Pereira Coutinho
In this chapter the author presents the results of a project developed in pre-service and in-service teacher education programs at the Minho... Sample PDF
Challenges for Teacher Education in the Learning Society: Case Studies of Promising Practice
Chapter 24
Pearl Chen
This chapter reviews the current state of theory and practice of experience design and suggests that the notion of experience should be regarded as... Sample PDF
From Memorable to Transformative E-Learning Experiences: Theory and Practice of Experience Design
Chapter 25
Carl Scott, Youmei Liu, Madhuri Kumar
This chapter will examine the relationship between a constructivist teaching approach and online learning experiences in the Virtual Worlds of... Sample PDF
Authentic Learning in Second Life: A Constructivist Model in Course Design
Chapter 26
C. Candace Chou
This study explores student views of various E-Learning tools as teaching and learning media in an online course for pre-service and in-service... Sample PDF
Student Perceptions and Pedagogical Applications of E-Learning Tools in Online Course
Chapter 27
Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, Harrison Hao Yang
Enhancing the substantial interaction in e-learning courses can be a challenge to instructors. The chapter gave an overview of online interaction... Sample PDF
Using Blogfolios to Enhance Interaction in E-Learning Courses
Chapter 28
Priti Srinivas Sajja
Quality of an e-Learning solution depends on its content, services offered by it and technology used. To increase reusability of common learning... Sample PDF
Multi-Tier Knowledge-Based System Accessing Learning Object Repository Using Fuzzy XML
Chapter 29
Ivan Angelov, Sathish Menon, Michael Douma
This chapter outlines central findings from surveys that considered factors that drive online experience as expressed by the three different groups... Sample PDF
Finding Information: Factors that Improve Online Experiences
About the Contributors