Reflections on engagement in online learning communities

Abstract

Engagement with course content, facilitators and peers is necessary for students fully to achieve their learning potential. This paper demonstrates how peer-to-peer online interaction enables deeper learning through discourse and helps with retention issues by increasing motivation and reducing feelings of isolation.

The authors were motivated to write this paper following their personal experiences in an online postgraduate course as members of a successful learning community. Their reflections on the facilitation methods and levels of student participation during the semester are supported by quotations from chat logs and discussion postings made by fellow students in the course, thereby enabling the inclusion of a wider student voice. To give more breadth, the authors also reflect on another two shared online learning experiences which resulted with varying success in building the community of learners. These comparisons provide a distinctive perspective because the authors reflect upon their experiences as students rather than as teachers.

This research informs a future action research project to improve facilitation strategies used in a large undergraduate course and highlights strategies for facilitators to consider in the formation of online learning communities. Topics include facilitator presence, online activities, the use of regular announcements, asynchronous and synchronous methods of engagement, the tone of discussions and group dynamics.

Authors

Anita Ryle
Faculty of Business, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Kaye Cumming
Division of Academic Information Services, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

References

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Keywords

course content; learning community; online learning

Meta

PP: 035 - 046


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