Fostering Effective Learning Community in the Online Classroom

Fostering Effective Learning Community in the Online Classroom

Mary I. Dereshiwsky (Northern Arizona University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5255-0.ch012

Abstract

Online learning communities are an important aspect of successful virtual learning experiences. They bring opportunities for peer collaboration and sharing of ideas in a globally based classroom unrestricted by time and space. At the same time, online learning community participants may face some challenges of effective communication and collaboration as compared to traditional face-to-face learning environments. The author discusses issues, concerns, and potential solutions with regard to online learning communities in the areas of discussion participation, group work on assignments, faculty concerns, and miscellaneous issues such as technology access. Maximizing the potential of online learning communities will facilitate higher-order learning in the technologically mediated twenty-first century classroom.
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Background

Let’s start with the meaning of an online learning community. What is it, and why is it important? Palloff and Pratt (2007) defined online learning community as a web of learning. It consists of interactions among students themselves, interactions between students and faculty, Palloff and Pratt (2010) further identified a cycle of collaboration and community as the hallmark of a successful online learning community. Virtual learning communities are characterized by a shared purpose and reflective practice facilitated by technology. Collaboration among students and faculty enhances the sense of shared community, which further bolsters students’ critical thinking and constructivism skills.

Kilgore (2016) has further linked the concept of online learning community to the idea of social presence. Such social presence, according to Kilgore, is characterized by feeling safe in expressing one’s thoughts and feelings.

Now that we have defined the components of an online learning community, let’s consider some of its unique aspects. What issues and concerns can arise in the attempt to build online learning community?

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