Barry Dahl raises the point that while we, as lecturing staff, may think that students *want* to be part of an eLearning community – and take steps to encourage it, perhaps they don’t. He hasn’t actually given the results of what the students actually think – which would be useful.

I’m not sure that I agree with him; face to face students do develop a community while they are studying. Often it is just while they are studying, and often pre-existing communities outside the learning community are those that receive the full dedication. The benefits gained from speaking to someone about the work they are doing, in a relaxed, social way, is often very important to students. I find it hard to believe that online students don’t find that useful. Clearly online students are often, as Dahl points out, people with many other interests, so the online community may well be more transitory and purpose driven. But, I feel sure that it exists for a significant number of students.

4 thoughts on “E-Learning Mythbusters #3

  1. I quite agree Emma,

    Certainly having just finished the online MSc I would say that I found our MSc community enormously beneficial and I think everyone on the course would agree that at least some of their effort and interest was involved in developing that community, both from an academic stand point, and with some social aspects there too.

    However, I can partly see where Dahl is coming from – it does probably depend on the nature of the course, the motivations of the students (postgrad is clearly differently motivated than undergrad.) and there exposure to an appropriate community elsewhere. For example, a postgrad professional course may enjoy less community building than a non-professional course, because those involved may already have their face-to-face communities in place to support their learning.

  2. Hi Emma,
    You’re right that in that particular post I didn’t give the results of student surveys about the importance of community. I do have that info (which is somewhat elusive, at best) in another place.

    At the link above you see the results of how our online students rate the importance of “sense of community” as well as the even lower importance of “student-to-student collaborations.”

    Not saying this is a definitive answer or proves anything, but I do believe that it indicates an area for further study.

    Best, Barry

  3. Thanks for that, Barry.

    The fact, though, that they seem to differentiate between “student-to-student collaboration”, and “sense of community” makes me wonder what they’re understanding by “community”. Perhaps they’re looking at it as much more involved than I see it.

    I guess it also depends on the way that the courses are taught. The first comment was from a student who’d studied online – but the way that we teach the course, they have to communicate with each other. Perhaps if we’d had a course that doesn’t require them to contact and communicate with each other, I may have a different view.

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