Thesis Title

Review of the Literature on Community Building in an Online Learning Environment: The Essential Foundation for Online Collaborative Learning

Graduation Date

Spring 2007

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Program Name

Education

Program Director

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD

Abstract

Online learning is now a significant part of higher education classes. Current trends Predict continued growth in the numbers of students learning online. However, the online learning environment naturally creates student isolation and lack of interaction between students. Past studies have touched upon the importance of collaborative learning in online- education, but few have shown the difficulty in creating effective learning communities and how to develop the foundational knowledge and student-to-student relationships needed for true communal learning to occur. This study begins the process of filling that gap, by listing and describing a collection of online instructional techniques and methodologies to be used by online instructors in creating online student communities with sufficient depth of relationship to facilitate online collaborative learning. The literature reveals a variety of techniques and methodologies utilized by online instructors to create online learning communities. Recommended methodologies and techniques include: 1) highly structured and well planned classes, 2) a detailed syllabus with exact language easy to understand, 3) an initial assignment or ice breaker assignment for students to get a general idea of who others in the online class are as people, 4) assigned readings from texts or websites to give the necessary foundational information, 5) large group required and graded student interaction and dialogue discussing the readings - requiring a first posting reflection on the readings and a second posting response to one or more of the comments made by other students, 6) small group assignments based upon readings utilizing different student roles for members of the small group such as Facilitator, Researcher, and Summarizer, with a short summary of group work sent to the facilitator, 7) a final project involving two to three students exploring in depth a particular issue of student interest, with room for varied opinions and conclusions from findings, and with critical thinking encouraged and rewarded.

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