Online Learning Communities

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Dr. Palloff defines a learning community as one in which students and faculty explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content. The online learning environment can impact student learning and satisfaction based on the definition by Dr. Palloff.  In adult learning theories we learn that constructivism states that the “most significant learning occurs when students have the opportunity to “study a topic from multiple perspectives’. (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2008, p 185).

In creating an online environment certain elements must be present. Naturally the CMS will ensure that the majority of the elements are present. However, there are also elements that the facilitator must possess and implement in the course. In designing the course itself, there should be learning activities that promote and foster learning.  Pratt and Palloff recommend that, students should be interacting with the content and classmates. This will maximize learners’ acquisition of knowledge and provide opportunities for students to master and apply content in a nurturing environment.


Several different things come to mind when considering how to maintain an effective learning community.  It begins with the instructor of the course. The instructor should be comfortable with the technology that is needed to run the class, as well as, having a comforting presence in the online learning community. Building rapport with the students early in the class by responding to post and making personal connections will attribute to student success in the course. Dr. Palloff suggests using humor and personalizing naming conventions to make the course feel warm and inviting. (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

We are reminded by Boettcher and Conrad (2010), that online learning has three elements: the learner, the mentor or faculty member, and the knowledge/content. The combinations of these elements can be a driving force that fosters learning or hinders the learning experience.  I have learned that the online learning environment is much like a community learning environment. We each give and take away an experience that helps one another synthesize content.


Boettcher, J. A., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). [Video]. “Online Learning Communities”. Retrieved from

Ormrod, J.E.; Schunk, D. H., & Gredler, M. (2008). Learning theories and instruction. New York: Laureate Education, Inc.


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