Implementing Successful Online Learning Communities

Implementing Successful Online Learning Communities

Diane E. Beck (University of Florida, USA) and Sven A. Normann (University of Florida, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch161
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Abstract

In the last decade, the number of courses using online learning has increased significantly and based on student demand; continued growth is projected. Although distance learning is well accepted, when compared to traditional classroom learning, lower student satisfaction, higher student attrition, and concerns about quality have been reported (Rovai, 2002a; Rovai, 2002b). The absence of “community” has been associated with each of these issues and this has stimulated research about how to successfully build a community in a virtual environment, to overcome these challenges. Successful online learning communities are also important for most blended learning courses (Rovai & Jordan, 2004). Discussion boards and other tools are being increasingly used to supplement instruction during traditional classroom courses. Therefore, across most courses in higher education today it is imperative that faculty members know how to establish and sustain successful online learning communities. The goals of this article are to a) define “online learning community” and delineate the factors that contribute to a successful learning community, b) review the evidence supporting the importance of a learning community in distance and online learning, and c) recommend strategies to promote achievement of a successful learning community.
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Introduction

In the last decade, the number of courses using online learning has increased significantly and based on student demand; continued growth is projected. Although distance learning is well accepted, when compared to traditional classroom learning, lower student satisfaction, higher student attrition, and concerns about quality have been reported (Rovai, 2002a; Rovai, 2002b). The absence of “community” has been associated with each of these issues and this has stimulated research about how to successfully build a community in a virtual environment, to overcome these challenges.

Successful online learning communities are also important for most blended learning courses (Rovai & Jordan, 2004). Discussion boards and other tools are being increasingly used to supplement instruction during traditional classroom courses. Therefore, across most courses in higher education today it is imperative that faculty members know how to establish and sustain successful online learning communities.

The goals of this article are to a) define “online learning community” and delineate the factors that contribute to a successful learning community, b) review the evidence supporting the importance of a learning community in distance and online learning, and c) recommend strategies to promote achievement of a successful learning community.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teaching Presence: The course design, facilitation, and direct instruction that promotes achievement of social presence and cognitive presence and ultimately results in achievement of course learning outcomes (Garrison 2007).

Online Learning Community: A bonded group of learners who interact with each other in a virtual learning environment and share their perspectives and during this process construct knowledge (Schwier, 2001; Luppicini, 2003).

Presence: The perception that what is perceived exists.

Learning Community: An environment where there is sprit, trust, interaction, interdependence, and achievement of a set of common goals such as the learning objectives established for a course (Rovai, 2002a; Rovai, 2002b; Rovai & Jordan, 2004).

Community Of Inquiry Framework: A research tool that is guiding understanding about how learning and community occur when teachers and learners come together and there are three overlapping elements: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).

Social Presence: The ability of learners to display their emotions and interact socially so that they are perceived as “real people” (Garrison 2007).

Cognitive Presence: The collaborative exploration, integration of knowledge, and resolution of a problem or issue by means of continuous reflection and discourse (Garrison 2007).

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