This week in the course we learn about online learning communities, and it is apparent from the resources that this is something beneficial for both instructors and students. To start with, what is a learning community? According to Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt (Laureate Education, 2010) it is “a community of students and faculty who explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content.”

The idea is that active students learn more, and students who are interacting with one another are active. I believe that we all recognize this. We might be searching for specific information in books and Internet, and in the process we learn several other things since we are reading the text to find the information. We might have a problem and we discuss it with our colleagues (peers) and in that discussions we get new knowledge that will help me solve the problem.

Learning communities is about learner-to-learner engagement. You get to know the other students and they get to know you, and then together we make meaning of the content in the course. One comment that Dr.Palloff and Dr. Pratt made was that it should “empower students to take responsibility of their own learning” and if it works at it supposed to, it will “transform students into scholar practitioners” (Laureate Education, 2010). Other positive changes are that students become reflective, increase the self-direction, reinforce their sense of presence, and break the isolation.

There are several elements of online community building; people, purpose, process, method, and social presence. All of them depends on another and play off one another. However, it is not just to bring those pieces together and then we have a learning community. It will not just happen!

Circles in a overlapping relations between the elements of community building

I believe we need to start with the purpose. Why would people come together to interact with each other? The answer to that is not always that they want to learn something, but creating a course with the target group and their needs is a good place to start. On that purpose we as instructor has to create the process, the way the course is designed to take a learner from the start to end, but also the way it is designed to engage the learners. In that process we have to add methods so learners are able to interact, and communicate, and connect with each other.  The process and methods are key to community building.

We have then created an environment where we now can invite people, the learners, into, and give them the opportunity to start develop presence.  We cannot expect everyone to be capable of developing a social presence immediately, therefore, it is important that we give instructions on what to do and when, to help the learners to get started.  Then it is everyone’s responsibility to participate and interact with each other, otherwise there will not be a successful learning community.

One issue that could exist is the lack of knowledge of technology and online study, which could result in loosing learners since they become overwhelmed with everything. Having new student orientation will help students to understand all this new things as well as getting to know each other before they start the actual course. If it is not possible to have that, we have to use the beginning of the course to help them understand and learn all this things.

The instructor of the course is the facilitator and need to be the one setting the tone in the classroom and make it a warm and inviting place to be. That person needs to be involved in the entire process, and slowly cultivating students into the communities.

One thought I got reading and listening to this week’s resources is that even if we are talking about online teaching, all of this can be applied to a class on campus, that we meet face-to-face.

 

Reference

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

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