Online Learning Communities

This blog post provides insights on online learning communities; the post covers its impact on students learning and satisfaction, the elements of community building, how to sustain the online community and relationship to effective learning instructions.

The Impact

Online learning communities provide venues for students to challenge each other, co-construct knowledge, and provide appropriate feedback (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).  Additionally, both instructors and students participate equally in the learning community; however, instructors should create a safe environment for students to help them in expressing themselves and explaining to them how he/she will support them thought their learning journey (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Community Building

Community Building

Building an effective learning community requires planning and clear vision on who will be participating in the community (Saragina, 1999) and what are the common interests for this community that will keep participants engaged. Wilcoxon (2011) suggested that the structure of a learning community should include social presence, teacher presences, structured and unstructured cognitive presence ( full article ). Palloff and Pratt in Laureate Education Inc. (n.d.) explained that the community consists of people, purpose to community, process in which the training is developed, communication and social presence.

Sustaining the Online Community

Students who start their online learning experience unprepared may drop out early in the course (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). For this reason, instructors should reach out to students early once they recognize that the students are not present, and students, in general, appreciate the follow-up (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Further, it is the responsibility of the administration, instructors and students to build the community and sustain its presence. For example, institution could offer mandatory online orientations to help students getting familiar with the environment; by this means, students who  do not want to pursue online learning could then leave without affecting the enrollment in actual courses (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Learning Community

Clip Art from MS Word

Online Learning and the Community

Effective online instruction happen when the learners are able to interact with each other, with content and the instructor (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012). Additionally, when designing online courses, we have to include strategies which promote students’ engagement through the exchange of knowledge and experiences (Simonson et al., 2012). Similarly, in online learning communities we have to develop rules of engagement that by stating expectations, frequency and how to engage (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). By this means, we will be able to facilitate learner-learner and learner-instructor interactions. We also have to provide an organized learning environment to help students navigate through the course; in addition, provide opportunities for students to collaborate, be reflective and continuously reinforce their sense of presence (Laureate Education Inc, n.d.).

References:

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.a). Online learning communities [Video podcast]. Baltimore, MD: Palloff and Pratt.

Saragina, P. (1999). Creating an online learning community. Retrieved from http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/courses/instructors/guestlectures/saragina/index.asp

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Wilcoxon, K. (2011). Building an online learning community. Retrieved from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/761/building-an-online-learning-community

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Week 7: Fitting the Pieces Together

When I wrote my first post on the discussion board in this course, I had very limited knowledge of learning theories.  Initially and after reading information about the various thinkers and their theories, I felt that Knowles theory about adult learning is the closest to how I learn. Now, after reading rich resources about each theory I still believe that adult learning theory is the closest to my learning, but with more deep understanding to what it means. I enjoy the independence of finding information and the self-direction. Connectivesim, which I also mentioned in my post in Week 1 as a discovery for me, is a theory that I use in my learning. But over all I feel that I am using part of each theory in my learning.

The part of the behaviorism theory that I use in my learning is setting goals and outcomes to my learning, in terms if asking myself why I want to study this, and where do I want to end up in my learning (Laureate Education Inc., 2009). As a self-regulated learner with metacognitive awareness (Gitomer & Glaser as cited in Ormord, Schunk & Gredler, 2009), I am learner that always monitor and direct my learning towards my set goals, and use different strategies to complete the tasks (Ormord et al, 2009). From the constructivism theory, I consider myself an active learner that thrives to construct knowledge by discovering and researching information by myself (Ormord et al, 2009).  In this course, about “Learning Theories and Instruction” and through the social interactions in discussion boards, I was challenged to learn within the bounds of my Zone of Proximal Development (ZDP) and experienced instructional scaffolding (Ormord et al, 2009).

Online learning in a social environment, and communication with my learning community helped me in understanding new information (Kim, 2001). In addition, I became a member in many connected networks and learning communities. Through these networks and connections, I acquire further information continually, and I am able to distinguish between the important and irrelevant information (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman, 2008). As an adult learner, I am self-directed, and I am motivated by gaining new skills and knowledge to improve my work performance (Conlan, Grabowski & Smith, 2003).

I believe that technology plays a significant role in my learning, for example, when researching information I use Google and Walden Library resources. Through Google reader and Diigo, I am able to connect information together and arrange it in a way that is easy for me to follow and find. With social media tools like Twitter, I could read instant and short updates about topics that I selected, and people I wanted to follow.

Through this course, I started this blog site, which I am planning to maintain through the study in my Master’s and beyond. I use my laptop and sometimes my smart phone to access the course resources and search for information. My main study is online, through a learning management system (LMS); now through the understanding of the various learning theory I am more convinced that online learning is the most convenient and suitable environment to learn. Through online learning, I have more control over my learning and I am more engaged in it (Lim, 2004).

In conclusion, I gained a wide and deep knowledge about how I learn; my learning networks help in enhancing my learning experience. Understanding how I learn will help in understanding how others learn when designing instruction.

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References

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Connectivism

Kim, B. (2001). Social constructivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Social_Constructivism

Laureate Education Inc. (2009). Behaviorism and instructional design. [Transcript]. Baltimore: MD. Ormrod.

Lim, C. P. (2004). Engaging learners in online learning environments. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 48(4), 16–23

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.