A Sense of Community in Online Courses

1 Flares Twitter 1 Facebook 0 Filament.io 1 Flares ×
Ashford University - male thinking

Have you ever sat down to begin reading a new textbook only to find yourself completely confused by the first paragraph? If so, did this compel you to keep trying even harder to understand it, or did it only serve to discourage you and lower your willingness to try at all?

In an Edutopia article about how happiness and education are connected, the latter situation is what is referred to as a “fight or flight” response – and unfortunately, it’s a common one in higher education environments today. As one would imagine, feeling overwhelmed, withdrawn, or defensive doesn’t create an ideal environment for effective teaching and learning to occur. On the other hand, feeling safe and valued within a learning community does just that.

Seems like a reasonable conclusion to reach, and the article goes on to outline solutions for how to do this. Community building, or building relationships and practicing collaboration, is the number one essential outlined. But with more and more of today’s higher education learning environments now online, how can this kind of harmony be achieved in a virtual classroom; particularly for adult learners enrolled in online degree programs?

For starters, many online college courses offer discussion boards meant for students to interact on regarding topics outside of those having to do with their class. This shared space creates a sense of community that helps higher education students feel safe and connected to one another. The problem is that these boards are often underused or neglected completely as students prioritize assignments they are graded for.

Perhaps a solution could be for each class to have an appointed and voluntary ambassador of sorts who would be responsible for keeping classmates engaged on these boards. They could ask a question to get a conversation started and moderate the discussion, keeping it on track and encouraging everyone to get involved. Perhaps it could even be a place to share accomplishments from the students’ personal and professional lives, since receiving validation from our peers is preferable to feeling anonymous and unacknowledged amongst classmates.

To achieve that “magical mix of willingness and curiosity” that results in a capacity for deeper learning, online learners must push themselves and one another a little harder than would be required in a physical classroom. The reward, hopefully, would be that rather than feeling discouraged by that confusing textbook we mentioned earlier, they would feel comfortable enough to ask one another for help.

At the end of the day, the goal of higher education should not only be to walk away with a degree, but with new confidence and connections forged for a lifetime.

Written By: Lorelei Plotczyk
Lorelei is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

Popular Posts

  • Top 7 Reasons Why You Should Pursue Your MBA If you’re a college graduate, returning to school for your Master of Business Administration (MBA) might not appeal to you. After all, you’ve already spent four years on your Bachelor’s degree. Wh. . . November 24, 2014
  • Best Courses to Become More Marketable Most universities are composed of typical colleges such as the College of Health Care Studies, Business, Education, and Liberal Arts. Within these colleges are various majors a student can choose,. . . September 17, 2013
  • 5 Tips for Transferring Credits One of the best ways to accelerate your graduation day is to transfer credits. But many students find the transfer process very long and complicated. It doesn’t have to be so scary. Here are five . . . November 14, 2013
  • Explore Exciting Jobs in Healthcare You love to help people. You are interested in the science of the human body. And you believe in the value of a healthy lifestyle. If these traits describe you, then you ought to consider a career i. . . March 12, 2014
  • Business School Accreditation — What’s the Difference? When searching for a business school, you may notice that some business programs are accredited by different organizations with acronyms like AACSB, IACBE, and ACBSP. It’s easy to get lost in an alpha. . . May 23, 2014
  • 5 Great Education Documentaries The documentary is an underrated genre in the film industry, often described as one for those who are so “crazy” about a topic, they have to make a film about it. However, some of these “crazy” peop. . . July 12, 2013
  • Words of Advice for Graduates One of my favorite times of the year is commencement. I always enjoy seeing students walk across the stage to celebrate their achievement. When students get close to graduation, you can sense their en. . . March 10, 2014
  • Choose a Relevant Degree Business, English, Law – these are perennial subjects for degree programs, and they’ve stood the test of time. When students enroll in these programs, they already have some idea of what they’ll stu. . . February 5, 2014
  • The Five Toughest Interview Questions Job interviews are nerve wracking for just about anyone, whether you are a seasoned professional or a recent college graduate. The key to calming those nerves is preparation and practice. Prepare for . . . August 30, 2013
  • Advanced Degrees: Which Fields Provide the Highest Paying Jobs? Every spring it’s in the news: colleges are raising tuition. Higher tuition means students will be carrying a larger debt into the workforce, which cuts into their income. Choosing the right field o. . . September 9, 2013
Tags: , , , ,

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...