Online Learning Communities

Online education is becoming rather popular. Many students are taking online courses due to the flexibility and accessibility of the class. However, taking an online course should be more than just sitting in front of a computer. There should be real engagement between the learners; just as there would be in a traditional classroom setting. So how can educators engage learners in an online class? There should be an online learning community. So what is an online learning community? Online learning communities can be summed up as an online group of people who share a common interest or purpose, and they are working together to purse that purpose. It is basically a channel through which learning occurs online. Students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers (Donovan, 2015).

Building an online community reminds me of online instruction. Both must create a space where students have an opportunity to become active and reflective learners. In order for an online community to work, there are some essential elements the community must possess. To make a community, “you’ve got to have people” (Palloff, 2012). According to Palloff (2012), [students must] be able to interact, communicate, and connect, with one another. Another essential element of building an online community is that students must come together. When students are engaged in a learning community, the benefits they obtain will not be limited.

Online learning communities can significantly impact the learner’s learning and satisfaction in several ways. Some ways are through learner-to-learner engagement, student engagement with the class material, and stronger sense of community among students. According to Dr. Palloff (2012), when a teacher set up a “process by which students can connect with one another, we empower them to be the people who are responsible for their own learning”. When students are responsible for their own learning, they become engaged with the subject while trying to “figure out and make meaning of the content” (Palloff, 2012). From this, transformative learning occurs. It happens when the learner is at the center of his or her own active and reflective learning experiences.


Donovan, J. (2015). The importance of building online learning communities. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012). Online learning communities. Baltimore, MD: Author.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Natasha,
    I like the fact that you mentioned the flexibility of online learning. I also agree with you that students need to be actively engage in throughout the course as it helps with achievement and students’ interest. If the activities are engaging students tend to particpate more and play a significant role in their learning experience.


  2. Cedric Brown says:

    Thanks for the information. I think you can find encouragement with a support system of positive and accepting people. Collaboration is a great way to involved in online learning. The last institution I attended, all of our assignments were group assignments. We learned from each other and learned with each other. The experience was to learn how to learn with and from different people with different ideas. We had the same goal in common and the same interest for the assignment. I also think collaboration is helpful in taking some of the work load off of students. I have found out that in some instances the assignments have three to four questions. If you have three to four students in a group, it limits the entire assignment for just one student (each member can take a question). Additionally, if you run into any problems, there is a team to help.


  3. Nancy Brown says:

    I took a moment to read the reference article you posted written by J. Donovan which lead me to another article by the author. She discussed the characteristics of a successful online learner: engaged, curious, resourceful, a critical thinker and asks for help (Donovan, 2015). These are essential characteristics for participants in an online learning community. Dr.’s Palloff and Pratt have confirmed that students are responsible for their learning (Laureate, 2012). If a student has the characteristics noted by Donovan (2015), then the student has the drive and skills to be a successful self-directed online learner.

    Donovan J. (2015, April 28). Tips for being a successful student – online and in the classroom. Retrieved from

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012). Online learning communities. Baltimore, MD: Author.


  4. Natasha,

    I enjoyed the connection you made between an engaged learner and one that is reflective. Designing the online learning experiences that will engage the learners is critical to effective online experience for learners (Jaggars, Edgecombe, Stacey & Columbia University, 2013). Being reflective is an important part of the process of understanding new information and part of an engaged learning approach (Connrad & Donaldson, 2011).


    Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Jaggars, S. S., Edgecombe, N., Stacey, G. W., & Columbia University, C. C. (2013). Creating an Effective Online Environment. Community College Research Center, Columbia University.



  5. educationaltechnologies2016 says:

    I like that you mention, “online course should be more than just sitting in front of a computer. There should be real engagement between the learners; just as there would be in a traditional classroom setting”. In the traditional setting, the teacher is expected to stand at the front of the room and lecture with rows of students sitting in desks pretending to hang on to the instructor every word. In today’s society, there has to be engagement from both parties in the classroom and online.


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