Community interactions are unpredictable and require planning and commitment on the part of the instructor. In order to promote the use of forums and other community spaces and enhance student perceptions of their learning, it is important that students are aware of the benefits of collaborative learning (Camarero, Rodríguez, & San José, 2012; Jones et al., 2006):
I would also add that it can be really fun and stimulating to interact with each other over different media. This section includes best practices for building community, some notes on team work, recommendations for discussion forums, social media, and synchronous communications, and ends with links to learn more about communities of practice.
Cuthbertson & Falcone (2014) provide best practices for building community in online information literacy courses and workshops:
Additional best practices from Gilly Salmon for enabling collaboration include asking students to post a question at the end of each discussion and respond to the messages posted by their peers, sharing information and resources with each other (2013).
Recommendations for threaded discussions (messages grouped by question and replies, as opposed to order of posting) (Dron, 2007):
Teachers act as moderators in online discussions, promoting openness by acknowledging different experiences and responding to student contributions, but they can also give responsibility to individuals or groups as moderators (Malik, 2013):
Social media is often used to make course related announcements and for activities, such as ice breakers, to enable students to introduce themselves and get to know each other.
Why Facebook? Facebook is an example of an application that can be used for strategy 1 above, where students can feel comfortable and interact with their peers. Miller (2013) found that compared to using a standard discussion board, students using Facebook posted more often and with more urgency. Discussion activity: Students were asked to provide links to articles with key points and personal reflections, and react to other articles posted using their comments section.
Advantages of using Facebook over traditional discussion boards:
Practices for making the most of Twitter (Bledsoe, Harmeyer, & Wu, 2014):
Social media considerations
Web conferencing can be used for social learning opportunities as well as for consultations and online office hours.
Best practices for engaging learners in a web conferencing environment (Badia & Colosimo, 2013):
Learners may also join or form their own communities of practice, where each person has some level of practical knowledge and expertise and learning occurs through participation.
Bottom of the page bonus (video): Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation [intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards]
See the full bibliography for works consulted.
Badia, G., & Colosimo, A. L. (2013). Best practices for engaging users in a web conferencing environment. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, Georgia.
Bledsoe, T. S., Harmeyer, D., & Wu, S. F. (2014). Utilizing Twitter and #hashtags toward enhancing student learning in an online course environment. International Journal of Distance Education Technologies (IJDET), 12(3), 75-83.
Camarero, C., Rodríguez, J., & San José, R. (2012). An exploratory study of online forums as a collaborative learning tool. Online Information Review, 36(4), 568-586.
Cuthbertson, W., & Falcone, A. (2014). Elevating engagement and community in online courses. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 8(3-4), 216-224.
Dron, J. (2007). Control and constraint in e-learning: Choosing when to choose. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Pub.
Jones, C., Cook, J., Jones, A., & De Laat, M. (2006). "Collaboration" In: Conole, G., & Oliver, M. Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research: Themes, methods and impact on practice. Hoboken: T&F.
Malik, K. (2013). "Engaging learners as moderators in an online management course" In: Wankel, C. & Blessinger, P. (Ed.), Increasing student engagement and retention in e-learning environments: Web 2.0 and blended learning technologies. Emerald Group Publishing.
Matuga, J. M. (2007). "Self-Regulation and Online Learning: Theoretical Issues and Practical Challenges to Support Lifelong Learning" In: Y. Inoue (Ed.), Online Education for Lifelong Learning (pp. 146-168). Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub.
Miller, S. T. (2013). Increasing student participation in online group discussions via Facebook. Astronomy Education Review, 12(1), 010103.
Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The key to active online learning. Taylor & Francis.