Don’t underestimate building a community

I’ve had a pretty clear idea of how interactions and communication will occur in my online classroom since I started designing my course prototype. However, after reading Benita’s post about building a community, she helped me realize that I may have took for granted how easy it would be to simply create an online learning community. So many things are required to build communities as a facilitator like: being welcoming to members, observing, and connecting with members. Yet while providing these, still allowing for members to have opportunities for participation, autonomy, and being a part of establishing the community’s identity. It seems to happen naturally in my regular classroom, but an online community, obviously, isn’t the same. I then considered, will some of the assessment I receive from my peers in the EC&I 834 community reflect or paint a idealized view of  my modules than reality? Will the actual practice and administration of the course be as supportive or receptive? Make no mistake, I’m not panicked, but it’s definitely an element I didn’t think could be problematic.

Pre-Troubleshooting (Anticipating interaction problems)

With that in mind, I should probably consider potential problems that may occur when establishing my online community and then reflect on how this may affect my course prototype plan.

 

Common Pitfalls via Edutopia

  • Students may misunderstand directions or may be unsure of what is expected of them.
  • Student comments can become off track or go in a direction that is not supported in the lesson.
  • Students may stall or put off participating in the discussion board until the last minute.
  • Students may not feel a sense of connection with their classmates.
  • Students may react in an inappropriate way by flaming other students or making disinterested or disrespectful comments to their peers or in response to assignments.

Reflecting on my course plans (while applying what I need to keep in mind), I wanted to:

  • Use commenting on the informative content videos I share on YouTube to clarify content for students.
    Content must be introduced, however, guidelines for commenting (or example questions) perhaps should be included in the video description while verbally stating this at the conclusion of the video in an attempt to help establish “netiquette”. As well as perhaps creating a reply video for frequently asked questions in the comment feed.
  • Allow students to share their own videos with responses safeguarded by Flipgrid (however, I would simply keep the free version so students could share their thoughts, but this would leave them unable to interact and respond to one another).
    This will allow for the virtual learning to occur collectively. As students will need to contribute to share in learning, provide clear instructions (while also being available via email) and deadlines for posting these responses, while simultaneously encouraging informality.
  • Long-term students (this will not be seen in the course prototype) would likely blog thoughts, and comment on others as the course progressed. Reflecting on what they learned in the required community discussions.
    How can I ensure/assess if students are actually feeling connected to others in the course?

If I can provide prompts and students participate asking questiosn and being involved in discussion, this can allow for interactions to be meaningful and supportive. Since the bedrock of the content-based prompts should be establishing relevance of the content, the discussion that appears as a result should reinforce this. An example: The video may establish that evolution and change via natural selection occurs in many ways, students are then prompted why does that even matter? How does it effect us?

building-community.jpg

Building Community via Kayako

Any curricular course needs to address and develop “required” knowledge and understanding, but in a virtual learning environment this needs to occur while emphasizing the role community-building has in the learning process. And community-building only happens when there are members to create a community around, so be sure to account for them!

How are my plans looking? Anything else you think I need to focus on? Let me know below!

– Logan Petlak

 

 

 
Resource via Schwier, Athabasca University

Selznick, P. (1996). In search of community. In W. Vitek & W. Jackson (Eds.), Rooted in the land (pp. 195-203). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Advertisements