Saturday, November 15, 2014

Online Environments : Interaction and Community-Building

Research on Interaction and Community-Building

Many articles have been written pertaining to online environments and the importance of interaction and community-building within these environments.  I have had the opportunity to review two articles pertaining to this topic which include Herring and Clever-Schmertzing’s article, Online High School World History:  Does Interaction Make a Difference? and Shakelford and Maxwell’s article, Contribution of Learner-Instructor Interaction to Sense of Community in Graduate Online Education.  In reading these articles I have come to the conclusion that it is evident that interaction does play an important role in learning in an online environment.  In Herring and Clever-Schmertzing’s article many researchers were quoted in making comments that students seek to develop interpersonal relationships and that building a learning community with their peers is important. In Shakelfod and Maxwell’s article it speaks more from a standpoint of the online instructor and the great importance of students having a multiple ways of communicating with the instructor and peers.   However, although having a great deal of interaction and community building strategies for students positively  influences their perceptions of online learning, the research I have read in the above articles states that it appeared to have little impact on performance.  In my opinion, I feel it does have a large impact on student performance-how can that be truly measured?

My Experience in Online Learning
I am going to be completely honest -I have had some really great experiences in interaction in online learning environments and some that have just been horrible!  My most recent experiences have been fantastic.  I have constant interaction with my peers, I am able to communicate with them daily and feel like I have a sense of community within my class.  To be honest I think this all has to do with the professor and how they structure the class and lead by example.  In my current online course we are using the Canvas site which has been amazing.  My teacher gives constant feedback, we have multiple opportunities for interaction and we even have “live” class meetings. 
On the other hand, in the past I had a pretty negative experience with an online class.  Part of the problem was that the course was very disorganized and half of the time when we tried to meet online the program would not work.  There was little opportunity for peer discussion and interaction and I felt very frustrated with the course. 
Sometimes it’s good to have the positive and negative experiences in order to appreciate what good online teaching, learning, and interaction looks like!

My Future Plans
As so many of us do, we use our past to help shape who we are and how we will live our lives in the future.  My previous experiences with online learning environments will help me greatly in building interactively into the design of future courses.  I plan on creating very open and inviting courses in which students feel they are valued and are within a learning community.  I will ensure that I am organizing my courses in a way which are user friendly and I will constantly and consistently work on fostering peer relationships!

Check out this link for a great youtube video on building positive online environments!

1 comment:

  1. Like you, I have had great and not-so-great experiences as an online learner. The negative experiences have perhaps impacted my online teaching even more than the positive ones! I think we learn so much from what not to do. :) So glad you're having good experiences this semester!