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Designing authentic online community of learning experiences for higher education

Parker, Jennifer (2015) Designing authentic online community of learning experiences for higher education. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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A key challenge for university professionals is to identify how to construct more interactive, engaging and student-centred environments that promote key learning skills and encourage self-directed learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of an online professional development course that would enable higher education practitioners to design more interactive and engaging online courses.

An extensive review of the literature identified principles of online learning that informed the development of an authentic community of learning framework that was used to guide the design and implementation of the professional development course. Key principles encompassed in the framework include: 21st century learning skills, authentic learning elements, Community of Inquiry components—social, cognitive and teaching presence, meaningful learning with technology and using open educational resources. The learning environment comprised a Moodle learning management system (LMS) and an open Google Sites website.

Specifically, the research sought to investigate which elements of the framework higher educational practitioners found to be most effective in helping create an interactive and engaging online learning experience, and whether the authentic community of learning framework influenced their existing teaching practices.

The study employed a design-based research approach in the form of an interpretive, qualitative study. Data collection methods included surveys, participant artefacts, contributions to forums, blog reflections and interviews with selected participants. Data was coded and analysed using a constant comparative method of analysis.

Findings suggest that the authentic community of learning framework was a successful alternative to models frequently used to develop online professional development courses and provided learners with greater flexibility and control over their learning. Participants themselves believed that the online course influenced their choice of strategy when designing their future online courses.

Publication Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Supervisor: Herrington, Jan and Maor, Dorit
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