What Makes Online Learning Communities Effective

  • How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?

Adults will learn more when they play an active part in their learning (Conrad R., Donaldson J., 2011). When they are part of what they learn they show more interest and satisfaction in the learning. It also gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment with the learning. Learning communities level the learning field and encourages the students to work together. As stated in the video “Create a community where there is support and challenge each other. Looking to professionally give feedback peer to peer. This creates a dynamic where the learners are equal participants.” (Laurette Education, 2010). “Norris, Mason and Lafere (2003) emphasize the content may have been the primary focus of the past of the time is coming when interactivity will drive learning (p.x)” (Conrad R., Donaldson J., 2011).

  • What are the essential elements of online community building?

Community learning allows for students to contribute their experiences for the entire community to learn. The stage for online learning communities is a space where the faculty is a guide in the learning to take place. As Dr. Paloff stated they are a “guide on the side” the instructor is there to facilitate the discussion taking place (Laurette Education, 2010). The instructor will set up the experience for the students to communicate by setting up a welcome communication which explains who the facilitator is and what interest they have. This personalizes the instructor and opens the door for the students to communicate as well. This creates a community simply by allow the students and instructor to know more about each other. Another important factor of a learning community is setting the expectations of the students providing peer feedback delivered in a professional manner. With the expectation of providing feedback, “learners in an online course cannot hide passively” (Boettcher, J., Conrad, R; 2010)

  • How can online learning communities be sustained?

Online learning can sustain as long as there is interest and if the students can help fellow students with answers. Also it is important for the instructor to post points of interest. It is a good idea for the instructor to guide the community. The healthcare organization I currently work for has a running community of practice which uses Jive as a platform for the participants to communicate and learn from each other.

  • What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction?

It is important that the instructors or facilitators lead by example. The instructors/facilitators should set the expectations of what is expected of the students and to lead by example. (Laureate Education, 2010). The community should start before the actual class starts, to help the students practice in the environment and to ease them in prior to the students needing to perform the work.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt

Boettcher, Judith V.; Conrad, Rita-Marie (2010) The Online Teaching Survival Guide Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips

Conrad, Rita-Marie; Donaldson J. Ana (2011) Engaging the Online Learner Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction

4 thoughts on “What Makes Online Learning Communities Effective

  1. Informative. The instructor carries a heavy load by designing interactive forums and maintaining them. Principle 3: Faculty mentors are the directors of the learning experience (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Fortunately, they mentioned that we do not have to do all of the heavy lifting alone. Most colleges have a team…designers and developers and the instructor. Good to know.


  2. In our organization we have a team of 40 there are teams of instructional designers, developers, instructors, and program delivery to handle the load of learning. It is a great breakdown of responsibility. I have been fortunate enough to have taken on many of the goals of the department.


  3. Participating in online communities is a crucial part of a student’s learning experience and it’s also the responsibility of everyone involved in the course. Each person involved brings a new perspective that enlarges the scope of learning opportunities. Take it from me, the person who has played the role a half-hearted student for various reasons, peer and facilitator engagement has determined whether I remembered (and applied) the course material 6 months later, or brain dumped immediately following a final exam. Great post!



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