R

emember when COVID sent the entire world into a frenzy? 🤔 It was the first time we had a common struggle, a shared fear, and a deeper level of connection. The pandemic taught us an important lesson: community is strong, and people respond better to peer support. It also makes sense when learning. 

Small learning communities are the foundation of student engagement. Learning communities, according to George Kuh, are meant to do two things: get students involved in answering "big questions" that go beyond the classroom and get them thinking critically about the material they've learned.

Students take two or more interrelated courses as a group and collaborate closely with their peers and instructors. Many learning communities examine a common subject or readings from various disciplinary perspectives. Some deliberately combine "liberal arts" and "professional courses," while others emphasize service learning.

However, while building a sense of community in online learning is undeniably the wave of the future education, most instructors struggle to keep their students engaged. There are ways to get more people involved and, ultimately, to create a stronger sense of community. This article will show you how to build an online learning community. Here's a quick rundown of the steps:

✅ Provide learners with initial assistance. 

✅ Define your presence and create a welcoming learning environment. 

✅ Manage workflows with the appropriate tools. 

✅ Prepare for the future!

You will also learn the meaning of community based learning, what benefits it provides, and how collaborative spaces and cohorts fit into the picture. 🕵️‍♀️ 

Community of Learners Definition

By emphasizing student, faculty, and staff collaboration, learning communities aim to reorganize the university curriculum and remove institutional obstacles to student success. 

According to the definition presented in a paper, building a community in the classroom can take "any one of a variety of curricular structures: 

☑️ Join together various separate lessons. 

☑️ Comprehensively reorganize the course content. 

The point is to get students more involved as active participants in the learning process, both with one another and with their teachers, so that they can gain a more thorough and lasting grasp of the material being covered.

The publication advocates that the learning community can consciously reorganize the curriculum to link courses or coursework so that students find greater coherence in their learning and increase intellectual interaction with faculty and fellow students. Furthermore, they believe they can improve upon some of the institutional flaws plaguing today's universities that serve to obstruct quality instruction and research. 

A collaborative learning community entails some form of team teaching, and interdisciplinary themes are commonplace in learning communities because they are intrinsic to the nature of the endeavor itself. 

A learning community is defined by Lenning et al. as a group of people who have come together on purpose to help each other learn and grow. Community members engage in ongoing dialogue and cooperation as they work together to achieve shared educational objectives.

What Are the Features of Community-based Learning?

As Alexander Astin sees it, learning communities can be structured in various ways: around courses of study, shared professional or hobby interests, physical locations, and more. As such, they can be used to combat the feeling of isolation that many students experience, as well as to foster a sense of group identity, cohesiveness, and uniqueness, and to encourage continuity and the integration of diverse curricular and co-curricular experiences. 

With Astin's definition in hand, we can see what makes building a community in the classroom unique: 

  • Dividing up the students into smaller study groups. 
  • Promoting interdisciplinary learning.
  • Building a community of academic and social support for students. 
  • By giving them a taste of community, this program helps prepare students socially. 
  • Strengthening the bonds between instructors. 
  • Keeping teachers and students concentrated on what needs to be learned. 
  • Facilitating the distribution of academic enrichment initiatives in local neighborhoods 

The development of learning communities should adhere to six specific principles or themes, as identified by another study. For example:

  • The most effective learning communities are tight-knit groups of students who share a strong sense of shared purpose and are influenced greatly by their peers.  
  • The four Is of involvement, investment, influence, and identity should characterize student interaction within learning communities. 
  • Boundaries in a learning community make it simple for members to get to and shape the shared space, fostering continuity in their relationships. 
  • If learning communities are to be effective, they must be student-driven rather than teacher-led. Educators ought to presume their charges are mature, capable adults who bear the primary responsibility for the depth and breadth of their education.  
  • Collaboration among peers and teachers is essential for successful learning communities. It is not enough to want to form a learning community; a clear goal should guide the group's formation.
  • Values and normative expectations for participation should be made explicit within learning communities. Everyone benefits when students are immersed in learning communities with a shared normative peer culture.

Benefits of Building a Community of Learners

Commonalities exist among high-impact educational activities like building a sense of community in online classes that contributes to their success with students.

Community of Learners Advantages (for Students) 

Students' grades, as well as their retention and satisfaction with studies, can be boosted by creating learning communities that emphasize group work. Other benefits include: 

☑️ Fewer students placed on academic probation:

☑️ Learning quantity and quality.

☑️ Learning verifiability.

☑️ Improved knowledge.

☑️ Improved self-esteem.

☑️ Satisfaction with school, participation, and learning experiences.

☑️ More chances to express yourself in writing and speech.

☑️ More interest in what is being taught.

☑️ Ability to fulfill academic and social obligations.

☑️ Enhanced intellectual depth.

☑️ Better retention and recall of information.

☑️ An increase in academic and social engagement.

Community of Learners Advantages (for Instructors)

Several advantages are available to business owners who decide to build community learning online:

☑️ Attracting new students 

☑️ Bring more to the table for clients.

☑️ Maintain a steady stream of feedback to refine your course constantly.

☑️ Learn more about students' needs and struggles so you can promote the course more effectively.

☑️ Podcasts, webinars, and other audio/visual content can all be used to spread the word about your online community.

Are All Online Learning Communities the Same? 

Learning communities differ in terms of Collaboration, formation, and goals. 

  • Practice-based: Students engage in a shared activity, discuss and exchange information about it, and define themselves. 
  • Interest-based learning communities: Learning communities that work together to solve a problem of mutual interest. They may or may not be members of the same professional community. Learning networks are the equivalent of education. 
  • Task-based: Members work together to complete a specific task. They might or might not be members of the same CoP. 
  • Knowledge-based A group of people who collaborate to create a body of knowledge.

Where Do Cohorts and Collaborative Learning Come in?  

Learning in cohorts and participating in collaborative programs are essential components of fostering cohesive neighborhoods. By delving into the specifics of community-based education, we can see how the element of cohort learning or collaborative effort plays a role. National Resource Center for Learning Communities identifies the following as the three most important aspects of any successful learning community:

  • Strategically defined cohort of students who take classes together and have been singled out through an analysis of institutional data.
  • Collaborative partnerships between the academic and student worlds that are both strong and collaborative for integrating interdisciplinary learning that has been planned out in advance. 
  • The National Resource Center also stresses the importance of tailoring learning communities to each school's mission and values.

How to Create Learning Community: 4 Key Steps

So what is community building all about? 

First, it’s important to ask yourself these questions before establishing an online learning community. 

  1. How can we determine which student learning communities and combinations of students will produce the greatest results? 
  2. How can I ensure that all student learning communities function at their best? 
  3. How can I encourage my students to make meaningful contributions to my learning communities? 
  4. How well do I understand the characteristics of nonparticipating students, and what can be done to encourage them to join in? 

While you consider those questions, here arw five guidelines for successful learning communities:

Provide Initial Support

Collaboration must be present from the beginning of the learning community development process, and widespread support is crucial. A more secure foundation for long-term success can be established with dependable leadership and a permanent administrative "home." 

Create a Conducive Learning Space

The design and theme chosen should be conducive to the educational and personal aspirations of the target audience. Required general education courses or pre-major courses (such as pre-law, pre-health, and pre-engineering) can be used by learning communities.

Ensure Seamless Management

Plan for and handle the appropriate number of students. Create marketing, sign-up, and sign-up strategies that work. Make sure there is enough money, space, and instructional materials. 

If you're ready to start an online school, read this article

Build a Future-ready Community

  • Think about the following as you outline your learning community's future: 
  • Expanding the range of student-centered outcomes identified and evaluated in learning communities.
  • Investigating the instructional and organizational features that contribute to successful outcomes.
  • Initiating a long-term study to see how learning communities affect their members over Time. 
  • A study recommends detailing the learning communities initiative, including its historical background and current participants. You should be able to articulate research questions and strategies, effectively convey findings and recommendations, and engage in critical introspection.

Challenges of Building a Strong Community 

Here are some issues you might face when establishing a learning community.

😥 Difficult Integration

Tutoring requires a genuine interest in and curiosity about one's students. Students generally want to connect more individually than you might anticipate. A group of students was recruited for a study because they expressed interest in participating in creative, cross-disciplinary learning. They wanted to join the learning community but were nervous about being rejected by its members. Familiar obstacles like these can prevent community members from joining a learning community.

😥 Time

Since each client has a schedule to adhere to, it could be challenging to settle on a time that works for everyone. There's also a chance that your class will include students from outside of your time zone. In essence, timing considerations need to be made and addressed when seeking active participation in learning communities.

😥 Culture Fit

Although the entire concept of community is to bring people together who share common beliefs and goals, remember that different students come from different backgrounds and perspectives. When creating an online learning community, these distinctions must be considered.

😥 The Right Platform 

Finding an all-inclusive learning program where they can manage all aspects of online learning is a significant challenge for educators. Some solutions must offer all the features needed to expand an online learning community. EducateMe provides a centralized hub from which you can manage multiple workflows and access a comprehensive online education platform. If you're interested in reaching the cohort learning audience, here's a primer on organizing a cohort-based course.

Get Started! 

The advantages of establishing an online community extend to both students and teachers. Even if it appears impossible to begin, this guide should provide you with effective community building strategies to use in 2023. Are you ready to launch your online community? Sign up on EducateMe.

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Posted 
November 10, 2022
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