Learning is a social act by itself.
We learn through contact and discourse with another person more competent in the field.
Speech and conversation with one another generate knowledge negotiated and subjected to endless talk.
However, building an online learning community is neither automatic nor simple to achieve. We have to understand the structural elements of social learning and learners’ motivational layers.
There are eight ways you can use to build your online community successfully.
Before you go on, are you looking to create your own learning community? You can do that with LearnWorlds, starting building your learning community within the first 30 days free.
You can even create a membership-only learning community for your students.
Online learning communities are essential to achieve a productive online learning environment. This is why they are so popular, especially in higher education.
In online learning, community participants create an interactive canvas of diverse reactions and feedback.
They find ways to explore, to think, to innovate, to develop skills, and to seek conceptual understanding- things they wouldn’t achieve on their own.
These learning experiences instill a sense of belonging and camaraderie that keeps online learners engaged and motivates them to persevere.
However, most instructors struggle to make learners participate in the discussion board because learners attend the courses in their time-space.
However, there are ways that you can use to gradually establish participation and, in the end, a real sense of community.
What you need is to make changes in your course design and include collaborative learning activities. Let me show you ways to do that:
In this example, you can see what our initial message should look like:
Don’t forget that your initial postings in the discussion forum, your first messages sent to all by email, or the greeting you post on your course home page will do much to set the tone and expectations for your course.
Announcements help us build a stronger rapport with our learners.
News and announcements make you seem active. You are the half part of the equation.
Depending on your preferences and those of your learners, you can also send emails, text, or social media messages that repeat online announcements or merely remind learners to log in to view those announcements.
If you send a weekly message via email or some other format (eg., Twitter), make sure these are identical to any announcements in your online classroom.
Let learners know from the first day of class that each time they log in, they should check for the latest announcements. So, having a uniform announcement area in your course platform is essential.
Here are some examples of announcements:
During the early part of an online course, it is critical for class members to get to know one another, and learn to share things from an online class community.
A good idea is to create a discussion thread called “Introduce Yourself.” It’s also fruitful to present yourself too.
These discussion threads enable the teacher to identify learners with similar interests and help her to group learners for collaborative work later on in the course.
Learners must feel free to pose questions either via email (directly to the teacher as a private communication) or by posting a discussion forum (publicly).
The drawback of the email approach is that the learner is relying on the teacher as the sole provider of information.
It is advisable, therefore, to set up a Q&A discussion thread for the duration of the online course. This saves time for the teacher and encourages communication:
Synchronous communication provides a sense of immediateness and cultivates the feeling of responsiveness among participants.
It also results in quick problem-solving. Real-time chat is probably the most exhausting and intensive activity you will ever encounter in online teaching.
Your attention must be attuned to rapid-fire comments and questions from several learners.
It is best to plan a live collaboration chat with your learners early on.
That can be achieved with a live class or webinar.
Asynchronous discussion allows time for reflection and encourages more careful consideration of the answers given.
Learners can reflect and think about their responses rather than having to respond immediately.
The shaping of discussions takes some proper forethought.
A discussion based on specific readings in the textbook, coupled with your guideline questions, will likely be more productive.
One way of promoting meaningful dialogue and questioning is to provide a set of rubrics of the kinds of questions students may want to ask each other:
Tips for great asynchronous conversation:
In your discussion board, you can create group conversations where smaller groups of learners can interact and also produce crafts.
Here are a few strategies for promoting group work:
As an extension of your course topics, you might like to create a blog outside the course platform, where learners will post articles, reflections, diary entries, images, links to websites, audio, or video clips, etc.
A community of learners can co-exist and co-develop in several social means concurrently. That will make it even more coherent.
In this special website you can:
In LearnWorlds Academy, for example, we provide a community page where students can follow each other, create posts or comments, participate in polls and also interact with others’ posts by highlighting the best, filtering them, star them and much more!
Sharing is caring. Sharing is thinking together, negotiating, collaborating, and co-creating.
These are the main elements of productive communities of learning.
The cycles of sharing, commenting, responding, synthesizing among learners promote community-building emotions since learners no longer focus solely on their understanding.
Give it a try to apply the techniques I describe here and give me feedback on how it goes.
Also, take a look at how you can interact socially with learners inside LearnWorlds and get some ideas on how comments, messages, posts and course discussions come alive there.
If you want to create your own learning community, you can get a 30-day free trial of LearnWorlds.
Anthea is a Course designer and Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team. She holds years of experience in instructional design and teaching. With a Master of Education (M.Ed.) focused in Modern Teaching Methods & ICT (Information & Communications Technology), she supplements her knowledge with practical experience in E-Learning and Educational Technology.