Building Sense of Community in Online Learning Environments Michiko Kobayashi, Ph.D.
Issues in online courses- A higher attrition rate.- Students’ feelings of isolation.- “Coldness” of mediated instruction.- Unable to create affective relationships with students.
Adding a human touch in online coursescan solve those issues.
How can we promotesense of community in online learning? Trust Social Support Learner-centered Shared Interaction Sense of Community responsibility Attitudes towards technology Equal status Emotional closeness
Know your students - Have a face-to-face first session if possible. - Obtain information about your students at the beginning of the course. e.g. Professional goals, Interests, Technology skills, Prior distance learning experiences
Promote Emotional Closeness - Post your self-introduction in the first week of the course. *Audio and video messages if possible. - Include your photo in the course web site. - Include a student’s first name in your email response. - Always encourage them to ask questions.
- Use formal and informal writing styles depending on the situation. * Informal writing style conveys friendliness.- Recognize students who demonstrate outstanding performance. * Post the student’s work after obtaining his/her permission.
- Find a way to express your feelings and emotions in email. *Emoticons (icons that express emotions) can compensate for lack of visual cues. e.g. :-) ----> smile :-( ----> sad, disappointed :-o ----> surprised
Facilitate interaction and collaboration - Have students introduce themselves to each other. * This can be incorporated into a small group activity at the beginning of semester. - Provide a variety of group activities. * Accommodate individual differences ** A small group is easier to develop a personal relationship.
- Clearly state goals for the activity and provide specific grading criteria. * Participation in online discussion should be a graded component of the course.- Ensure equal opportunities for participation by all students * The number of chat group members should be no more than three.
- Allow students to select a discussion topic if possible. * Give pre-set topics and ask them to choose one.- In collaborative activities, emphasize group goals to increase a group cohesiveness.- Provide online communication space for students’ social communication * It should be separate from the one used for class assignments.
Be a model for students to implementeffective online communication - Respond to students’ emails promptly. - Provide timely responses to posted messages. * But, the instructor’s intervention (comments) should be minimum during student discussion. - Teach students etiquette in online communication. * Create online communication rules in your course.
- Be a moderator of online discussion. - Initiate communication - Invite participation - Recognize all contributions in discussion - Restate what others have said and summarize ideas- After you demonstrate a moderator’s role, select a student moderator and rotate the role.
Minimize student frustration inusing technology - Use only technology that helps student learning. - Make sure that text, audio, and video files for the class can be downloaded “easily.” - Provide technical support promptly. Always have alternatives.
SummaryStudents’ success in online learningdepends on the instructor’s skills todevelop an online community.