Creating a Collaborative Community in Online Environments

Creating a Collaborative Community in Online Environments

Jessica C. Decker (University of La Verne, USA), Valerie Beltran (University of La Verne, USA), Mark Matzaganian (University of La Verne, USA), Nancy T. Walker (University of La Verne, USA) and Sammy Elzarka (University of La Verne, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5178-4.ch019
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This chapter examines the complexities of creating a collaborative community in online classes. A fully online Master’s of Education program is studied, with students being surveyed regarding their experiences with collaboration in the online courses. Results of the study are discussed, along with recommendations for establishing a sense of community in the online environment. Recommendations include structuring introductory activities for the instructor and students, providing opportunities for authentic collaboration and communication through tools such as blogs and wikis, and guidelines for establishing effective group projects in an online class. Suggestions for future research are also included. Overall, a case is made for the importance of creating meaningful collaborative experiences for students within the context of class content in online courses.
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Establishing Collaboration In The Learning Environment

Research indicates that online learning environments can result in effective student learning, maintenance of active student participation, and improved social relationships among participants (Jonassen & Kwon, 2001). In their research on how online learning environments facilitated collaborative learning, Han and Hill (2007) identified three categories with multiple themes as important for facilitating collaborative learning: context, community, and cognition. Context was identified by two themes: structural support and active participation. Using groups along with multiple types of communication were the indicators that identified context. Themes of membership and social dialogues identified community. Indicators that support this include group cohesiveness, member specific jargon, willingness to engage in discussion, and developing a social presence. Cognition was identified as the social process of learning and communal facilitation. Sharing perspectives, goal setting, reflection, and connection are indicators of these themes. Han and Hill’s (2007) research concluded that small discussion groups, multiple modes of communication, nurturing of the community, and encouraging meaningful discussion amongst participants were critical components in a collaborative environment.

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