For the last 4 weeks, I had worked on “building Community” module for my EDUC4151 course. This learning experience have taught me that online communities don’t develop only as a result of cohorts sharing a common interest. It must be an intentional goal built into the design of an online course (Vesley et al., 2007, September). When we set the stage effectively the learners’ engagement with one another in a community will elevate genuinely to the desired emotional sense of community.
The assigned topic has also changed my thinking with regard to the role of educator in creating and maintaining a community. I realized that it isn’t constrained to designing opportunities of interactions for learners to connect and encouraging them, further to that, my role extends to modeling the expected behaviors among members, and facilitating knowledge sharing and participation (Vesley et al., 2007, September).
There are Six key insights that I gained as a result of this rich learning experience outlined as follows:
- Educators need to show their presence at early stages to build trust between them and their online learners and to encourage learners to respond positively (Kelly, 2008, August 11).
- Educators need to deal with anything that interfere with the cohesiveness of the community to keep the trust on going among learners (Kelly, 2008, August 11).
- Social presence occurs when students can connect on a human level, this approach known as humanizing the e-learning process implies modeling interactions where learners can see and hear each other, and thus educators need to use other channels of technology not only interactions via text-based messages (O’Malley, 2017, July 26).
- Using a gradual approach in building a learning society can address the isolated learners’ problem and enhance their involvement in the community. A good implementation is the gradual design approach for designing the discussion forums suggested by Heath (2017, September 9), her approach has four subsequent phases that span from beginning of course till the end, it starts with introductory forums as first step to connect learners and get them to know one another, then problem solving forums that allow learners to think together to solve simple problems, followed by critical thinking and gathering opinions forums which imply learners to discuss real-life problem and case studies, and last trust and support forums where learners advice and help one another at an emotional level (Heath, 2017, September 9).
- Online learning communities can be personally transformational when educators encourage learners bring their own context into the community (Donovan, 2015 October 8).
- Educators and learners share responsibility for creating and maintaining a safe non-vulnerable learning environment for the growth of the community (Donovan, 2015 October 8).
- Donovan, J. (2015, October 8). The Importance of Building Online Learning Communities [Blog post]. ValuED. Retrieved from http://blog.online.colostate.edu/blog/online-education/the-importance-of-building-online-learning-communities/
- Heath, A. (2017, September 9). Facilitating Communities of Practice in Online Courses. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/resources/online-learning/teaching-strategies-and-techniques-online-learning/facilitating-communities-practice-online-courses/
- Kelly, R. (2008, August 11). Creating Trust in Online Education. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/creating-trust-in-online-education/
- O’Malley , S. (2017, June 26). Professors Share Ideas for Building Community in Online Courses. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2017/07/26/ideas-building-online-community
- Vesely, P., Bloom, L., & Sherlock, J. (2007). Key Elements of Building Online Community: Comparing Faculty and Student Perceptions. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching .3 (3), 234-246. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no3/vesely.pdf