Evaluating Virtual Learning Communities
A fundamental task for educational professionals is to help companies
and educational institutions utilize appropriate technologies to run
their businesses and stay competitive and responsive to the demands of
their consumers. As a thought leader, this requires you to be familiar
with emerging teaching and learning tools for the delivery of
collaborative courses and training. For this Discussion, you will
analyze the concepts of sense of community and collaboration
in eLearning environments. You will also evaluate virtual delivery
systems to determine which system best suits the needs of a virtual
learning community in your workplace.
Read A Framework for Collaborative Networked Learning in Higher Education: Design & Analysis, which explores the framework for planning, designing, and implementing collaborative learning systems. Review Using Social Network Analysis to Understand Sense of Community in an Online Learning Environment and the research findings of the unique interaction patterns for students in online courses. Finally, view the media piece, Anatomy of eLearning: Conceptual framework, in this module’s Learning Resources with a focus on the “Delivery” (green) section.
Consider the variety of virtual delivery systems, which exist for the
creation of learning communities ( e.g., mobile and micro learning,
social media, massive open online courses, called MOOCs, learning
management systems and online learning spaces, virtual worlds, and video
conferencing). Research and choose one or more delivery systems that
you believe are best to create a virtual-learning community in your
By Day 7 of Week 7
Post the following:
Explain how a strong sense of community can be established and
maintained in an eLearning environment. In addition, contrast the
concepts of a sense of community with collaboration.
Explain why your choice of a virtual delivery system(s) is the best
delivery model for your workplace. Include in your explanation how the
delivery system maximizes access for your audience and how it enhances
the ability of your audience to connect and share a sense of community.
Defend your choices from personal experience, a learning theory, and at least one research study (PhD, EdD, and EdS students) or dissertation (PhD and EdD students ); use module resources as applicable.
Here are some examples
organizations shift from traditional learning experiences to online
collaborative environments it is vital that the effectiveness of the new
model be measured. A good measure of effectiveness is student
satisfaction (Issa, El-Ghalayini, Shubita, & Abu-Arqoub, 2014).
Online educators theorize that building community enhances student
satisfaction (Shen & Amelung, 2008). Shen and Amelung (2008)
suggest that a sense of belonging and community can be facilitated by
frequent interactions and information exchanges between students and
high levels of network density. Network density is a proportion of
actual ties to possible ties in a given network (Shen & Amelung,
2008). These activities build a strong sense of community in a learning
network. There is a difference between collaborative learning and
sense of community. Collaboration is seen by researchers as the
exchange of information (Issa et al., 2014). While a sense of community
is defined as belonging to a group with or without the exchange of
information (Shen & Amelung, 2008).
for Excellence in Education (IEE) is a professional development
organization focused on educator professional learning and coaching to
improve the experiences of students. As the Executive Director of IEE, I
have begun to examine possible opportunities to move professional
development to a technological platform. I am overseeing a project to
develop a middle-grades micro-credential that will provide learning
opportunities who seek to deepen their understanding of middle-grades
practices. The virtual environment is the correct place for this to
occur for many reasons. Traditional universities are closing their
middle grades programs leaving a gap in the preparation programs for
middle grades educators. The curriculum to be taught, is consistent
across the globe and does not need to be tailored to a specific region.
Finally, the learning experiences can be best implemented in an online
environment. The micro-credential course enhances the middle-grades
community by providing a virtual space for collaboration and belonging.
Currently, there are a few middle school organizations which build
collaboration and belonging through face to face conferences but none
that facilitate learning virtually.
As a middle grade
educator, I see the need to continue to offer foundational middle grades
concept content and the virtual platform provides the best approach in
the 21st century. The Social Network Analysis theory
supports this approach as the mirco credential will connect individuals
and organizations focused on middle-grades practices. We should be
aware that teachers will be more successful with this online learning
structure if they are given opportunities to collaborate and support one
another if this is their first experience (Theodocion, 2012).
As the leader of the
project at IEE, understanding the importance of collaboration and a
sense of belonging will support the development of a meaningful on line
micro credential course. Understanding the needs of the educators being
served will allow for the creation of learning opportunities that meet
Issa, G. F., El-Ghalayini, H. A, Shubita, A. F, & Abu-Arqoub, M. H. (2014). A Framework for
Collaborative Networked Learning in Higher Education: Design & Analysis.
International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 9(4), 32–37. https://
Shen, D., & Amelung, C. (2008). Using Social Network Analysis to Understand Sense of
Community in an Online Learning Environment. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL
COMPUTING RESEARCH, 39(1), 17–36.
Theodocion, K. (2012). Middle School Educators’ Perceptions of Online Professional
At my school, we host an annual conference that seeks to unite the
best and the brightest in the field with our students to discuss current
issues. We’re not a big name, so it’s not a big conference. We just
finished hosting our third one. And while each conference gets better
and attracts more people and more presenters with something interesting
to say, it just doesn’t have the reputation yet to entice people to
spend a lot of money on registration fees and travel to be a part of
this learning experience.
Our solution has been to make use of Web 2.0 tools as a form of
Networked Learning to offer a taste of the conference to those who can’t
make it, in keeping with one of our institutional goals to contribute
to the generalizable knowledge of the behavioral health field. We
broadcast a select few of the conference sessions via Periscope and then
use Twitter to open up a virtual learning community for dialogue during
and after the session. This is offered for free; anyone can view and
join the conversation. In terms of logistics, it’s usually a team of
staff members. One broadcasts the presentation via cell phone to
Periscope and another monitors the Periscope comments and Twitter
conversation. The Periscope comments, because they’re open to anyone,
do not always further the dialogue, shall we say , so it is the job of the staff member to sift the wheat from the chaff and pass it on to the presenter.
Video and Twitter, used as partners in this fashion, can support and
build a collaborative community of inquiry as it is so much more than
mere transmission of information. It has the potential to create all
three of the presences needed for a Community of Inquiry – social,
cognitive, and teaching (Garrison, 2007). In terms of social presence,
Periscope + Twitter fills the gap for people who cannot attend the
conference in person and connects them to each other. As a teaching
presence, it encourages more informal conversation where individual
questions can be asked – and answered – by a multitude of people
(Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009). One of the strategies we use to build
cognitive presence during the presentation for our participants, both in
person and virtually, is to have a faculty member in the audience who
poses open-ended questions that we post to Twitter to get the
conversation rolling about something the presenter has said, and then we
funnel responses back to the presenter to address live. We have had
great luck partnering this with unique hashtags to provide targeted
opportunities to exchange ideas. After it’s all over, we are able to
use a content creation tool to cull together a record of the event with
video (we usually have a second camera running to create a better
video), the presenter’s slides, and a summary of the Twitter
conversation, for an asynchronous resource.
The item that is probably most critical here to give our virtual
participants a sense of community is the interaction with the presenter
and those who attend in person. Shen has noted a similar result – that
interaction is strongly associated with a student’s sense of community
in online environments (2008). Building a learning community via these
sessions is much more than just pointing a camera at the speaker so
others can watch. We want our virtual attendees to be able to participate.
One session that we Periscoped had planned breakout conversations
where the presenter would pose a question, ask people to converse in
small groups, and then report back. Our Periscope camera person and
comment monitor sat in on one of those breakouts so the Twitterverse
could also participate, and then the comment monitor reported back to
the in-person attendees on behalf of the remote contributors. This not
only build community; it created a sense of collaboration for our remote
viewers as well. That was pretty cool.
Buoyed by our experiences this year in building a Community of
Inquiry via social media tools, we’re contemplating making our
conference next year entirely virtual. We will still Periscope +
Twitter a few of the sessions, but most of them would be available by
registration only through Zoom, an interactive web conferencing
technology that allows us to manage the registration process and control
access pretty easily. We’re still thinking that all through but we
are excited by the potential of these tools to create a virtual learning
experience with a sense of community and collaboration for the
behavioral health field.
Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 129-135.
Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72. Retrieved from http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/read/journals/
Shen, D., Nuankhieo, P., Huang, X., Amelung, C., & Laffey, J.
(2008). Using social network analysis to understand sense of community
in an online learning environment. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 39(1), 17–36.