Online Learning Communities

people all over the world learningThe video presentation by Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt was very informative as it relates to creating and maintaining, engaging online learning communities. Online learning communities significantly impact both the student learning and the satisfaction within the online courses in several ways. The learning communities have the ability to pull the students together forming a cohesive group in which they support one another in the learning process, they provide professional feedback to one another, have the ability to draw things out from one another, and they co-construct knowledge and meaning from the learning (Laureate Education, 2010). Learning communities create an energetic force where the facilitators and learners are equal participants (Laureate Education, 2010). The instructors are members of the community, becoming the ‘Guide on the side’ and not the ‘Sage on the stage’ (Laureate Education, 2010).

The essential elements of online community building are People, Purpose, and Process. These elements are fundamental to sustaining a successful online community. The table below provides details on these elements of online community building (Laureate Education, 2010).

Element Factors
  • Necessary element
  • They must be able to interact and communicate with each other
  • Must develop a social presence
  • Must have a sense of one another
  • Gather for the class
  • Provide guidelines for the course
  • How do we engage learners?
  • How often do we engage learners?
  • Course delivery is essential
  • What works well for learner-to-learner engagement
  • Empower learners to be responsible for their own learning

avatars global learningOnline communities can be sustained by communicating that everyone is involved in the success of this learning process. This includes the faculty, administration, and the students. I also believe that the tone in which things are initially set-up by the instructor is important. The creation of the learning community starts before the class actually starts (Laureate Education, 2010). The design and set-up of the learning environment are essential to the experience that the students will have. Is the learning environment easy to navigate? Does the instructor make the classroom feel warm and inviting to the students participating in the course? The instructor must create a safety net for the students so that they will be comfortable in the learning environment (Laureate Education, 2010).

The relationship between community building and effective online instruction is that online instruction forms a community of learners that are engaged in the learning process. The power of the online community is formed in the learner-to-learner engagements. This empowers the learners to make meaning of the knowledge, to be self-directed and reinforces their sense of presence (Laureate Education, 2010). Learning communities serve as a vehicle for learning in that they promote student satisfaction, there is a perception that learning is taking place, the students feel like they are a part of something larger and there is no social pressure to succeed.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from

One thought on “Online Learning Communities

  1. Hi Leslie. I enjoyed reading your post this week. I agree with you that learning communities encourage active learning. In the readings this week, the authors discussed that students in a learning community should be active knowledge generators. As a designer, what steps would you take to ensure that courses or programs that you develop encourage that kind of active learning? What best practices would you employ? How would you create that safety net for students that you mention in your post?


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


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