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 http://blog.online.colostate.edu/blog/online-education/the-importance-of-building-online-learning-communities/
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012). Online learning communities. Baltimore, MD: Author.