Community building and effective online instruction EIDT 6510 Course

The following observations were gleaned from viewing a video in which instructional design industry experts discuss and highlight the benefits of creating an online learning community for facilitators of online learning experiences.

Online learning communities significantly impact student learning in that they facilitate a deeper learning experience than a more instructor-centered approach would.  The peer to peer dynamic present in an online learning community allows for exploration of concepts within a forum where students both challenge and support each other in the learning process.  The instructor does establish his/her presence and it is clear that he/she is an integral part of the community but in order to provide for a transformative experience the instructor coaches from the wings so that students can construct their own knowledge.   Student satisfaction is positively impacted because they feel that they are apart of a dynamic exchange where their input is valued and expected.

The essential elements of an online community are a facilitator who understands his/her role as a source of guidance, learners who are engaged and make professional contributions to the community and a clear focus and purpose.  It is essential to online community building that each involved party has a good sense of their responsibility to the course.  The vitality of the community depends on the level of investment and engagement of the participants.  This engagement contributes to the sustenance of online communities.  Online communities are also sustained through meaningful support from the administrators of the program where the course is utilized.

Community building has a strong correlation to effective online instruction.  A thriving online community where guided participants interact and share their observations as they learn and reflect on new concepts leads to stronger learning outcomes and increased self direction.  This increased initiative can result in participants bringing even more insights and observations to share within the community resulting in richer discussion and deeper learning.

The video resource really drove home the importance of the instructor adapting the ‘guide on the side’ versus the ‘sage on the stage’ stance.  This element–the instructor guiding and coaching rather than lecturing–is essential to the co-constructed knowledge process and is the bedrock upon which a strong and effective learning community is built.



9 thoughts on “Community building and effective online instruction EIDT 6510 Course

  1. Hi Asha,

    I really enjoyed your post. I agree that the ‘guide on the side’ versus the ‘sage on the stage’ is a very important designation for the facilitator to embrace, especially in online learning. The learners being themselves in a professional way in an online learning community is also important. Other online communities, such as those for gaming, etc., can get a lot less formal. Both types of online communities each have their purpose. They both give the person a sense of belonging, though. Participation in a community does not leave the person feeling lonely.

  2. Hi Asha,
    Following your blog.

    I liked your post, especially where you mention how ‘each involved party has a good sense of their responsibility to the course’. I guess there might be a tendency to assume that all the responsibility for maintaining a healthy community in class should fall on the instructor, but Palloff and Pratt really emphasize that all members of the learning community, students included, have a responsibility for the community’s health.

    I guess this process can be a little circular as once students start to feel they are ‘part of something larger’ as Pallof and Pratt put it, they will start to assume more of a sense of responsibility towards their classmates and instructor, and in this way they will become better maintainers and contributors to the health of the learning community. They won’t want to let their classmates down if they have that sense of being a part of something meaningful.


    Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from

  3. Hi Asha,
    Nice observations. I agree that it is important for the instructor to be involved. Guiding students in their own learning, rather than lecturing without knowing if they are grasping the material, is an essential part of online learning. Also, having students interact with each other (like we are doing now!) is a good way to build up the online community. Using both together helps build upon the strength of the community.

  4. Asha,

    You are correct. In online learning communities, everyone (facilitators, learners, and even the administration) is responsible for creating a successful learning community. Also “Learning communities create a dynamic where facilitators and learners are equal participants,” (Laureate Education, 2010). In these communities, facilitators provide support and challenge learners when they participate in collaborative online activities. As a result, learners acquire knowledge through reflections and develop their critical thinking.

    Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from

  5. Asha,

    An exceptionally well-written analysis of the importance of community-building’s role in effective online classes. It’s kind of baffling as to why the social element of learning is so often underestimated in online training. I suppose people think, “Well, people learn on their own by reading articles and watching YouTube videos, so why can’t they do the same thing in an online course?” I think the sticking point comes down to duration. If I’m interested in a subject, I might throw it an hour here or there by reading an article, or watching a video series, but an online course lasts several weeks. A connection to peers can help sustain that longer effort, as well as having the learner’s prior knowledge and experiences be acknowledged.

    There is a computer programmer, Sugata Mitra, who is championing building a school in the cloud, and based on some of his experiences, he is skeptical that we need teachers in the formal sense that lecture students. What he did say that is needed are PEERS that help each other, and GRANNIES. “Grannies” are people that ask students questions and give encouragement: “What are you doing there? Why are you stuck? Oh, you’re smart. I’m sure you’ll get it.” Basically the “guide on the side” facilitator that Walden emphasizes. I think you’ll like his TED Talk:


  6. Great analysis Asha. You emphasized the main concepts of the video really well here. In your post, you mention the peer to peer dynamic and the importance of learners challenging and supporting each other. I identified with this concept the most. In the video, Dr. Palloff speaks about the importance of social presence and how it helps learners get to know each other. Through that presence, the online community is formed and strengthened. She also mentions social constructivism and how this theory applies to the online learning community. In order for online learning communities to thrive, learners must collaboratively work together and share ideas to enhance the learning experience. When this happens, learners walk away changed with a new or transformed way of thinking.

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