Online learning is equivalent to face-to-face learning courses. However, the online learning community has a significant impact on both student learning and satisfaction with the course. Dr. Rena Palloff explains that an online learning community allows us to support each other in the learning process and co-construct knowledge and meaning. Dr. Keith Pratt believes that we can also challenge each other and help each other grow by drawing things out of each other and correct each other in a way that the instructor cannot. According to Dr. Palloff, student perception of learning increases and outcomes are must stronger (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).
The online learning community requires five elements: people, purpose, process, interaction and presence (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). This means that an online learning community must have students and an instructor that interact with each other. Additionally, there must be a reason for the interaction. In our case, this would be a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design. Finally, there must be a process or delivery of the course. This is usually accomplished via a LMS or CMS, in our case, Blackboard. Each course is divided into weeks with specific activities for each week. These activities require interaction as part of the assignments. That ensures interactivity throughout the entire course.
An online learning community can be sustained via interactivity. Students must be present in the online learning environment (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). They are no longer passive knowledge-absorbers, but active knowledge generators (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). This means that groups are less than twenty and activities require a high degree of interaction (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). The instructor is a facilitator who keeps the students engaged by guiding the discussion (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).
Community building is the hallmark of effective online instruction. The student’s role as an engaged learner develops over time (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). The faculty’s role becomes that of a mentor and a member of the community (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The guide on the side is responsible for setting the tone, but the students build the actual community. Everyone is responsible for providing a positive learning environment (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). In this environment, students can thrive and education occurs that is equivalent to the traditional learning environments.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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, Inc. (2010). “Online learning communities.” Retrieved from: https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3466249_1%26url%3D