The need to belong and connect with others is universal among human beings. Technological advances make connecting and belonging possible via technologies, without face to face interaction. This new ubiquitous way of belonging and connecting is seen in all areas of communication, including work, schools and social environments. Online learning programs pose new challenges and questions. The purpose of this study was to learn more about the importance of sense of community within blended online programs and to determine whether there are specific learning activities that either enhance or detract from a sense of community. This information will inform course developers as to how to build community enhancing learning activities into blended online courses.
Forty-three graduate students enrolled in three different blended online programs from one University participated in an online survey process. The Classroom Community Scale (CCS) was used to assess an overall sense of community as well as 2 subscales; connectedness and learning. Overall, 86% of the subjects reported a sense of community within their educational program. Specific learning activities were assessed for use as well as student perceptions regarding whether the activity enhanced or detracted from the sense of community. Learning activities that were both collaborative in nature and synchronous were those rated by students as enhancing the sense of community. The most utilized learning activities were reading, synchronous discussions, collaborative assignments, writing and asynchronous discussions. Enhancing activities included face to face orientation pre-program start, collaborative projects, synchronous virtual sessions and group presentations.
To enhance community in online programs, it is recommended that an initial pre-program face to face session can best serve to build the initial community and support more effective learning. Additionally, course developers should incorporate synchronous and collaborative learning activities as much as possible within the structure of the course. Finally, faculty could use the CCS to measure connectedness and learning as a way to understand the learning and community preferences of the students in order to determine options and alternatives for learning and assignment completion.
|Commitee:||Goodale, Monica, McManus, Jack|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 75/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational technology, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Blended courses, Learning activities, Online learning, Sense of community|
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