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Developing community in online distance learning

Renzi, S. and Klobas, J.E. (2002) Developing community in online distance learning. In: 10th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS 2002), 6 - 8 June 2002, Gdansk, Poland



Describes how a sense of community was developed among a group of learners participating in a course in teaching and training online conducted primarily online at a distance via FirstClass computer conferencing software. Drawing on the literature of online communities and their experience of running virtual team projects, the authors developed a method for creating a sense of community among course participants. This method included establishment of an email list prior to course commencement, a two-day face-to-face meeting which concentrated on developing knowledge and skills for participation as well as community building, and inclusion of community building activities among the initial online course exercises. Students responded positively to this combination of activities. Tutors spent less time assisting students with socialisation and adjustment to the online environment, increasing the time available for content-related tutoring. The authors confirm the importance of sense of community among online learners, and recommend closer attention be paid to factors associated with early development of community, including functional factors such as familiarity with the online environment. They conclude with recommendations for more structured research on how antecedent factors and events are associated with the development of online community.

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