Building an Online Community

Building an online community is important. Ensuring that your students have a safe online space where they can share ideas, engage with materials and interact with each other is crucial in order to encourage learning and enhance the student experience.

Teaching students how to engage in online communities, is not only important for their immediate learning, their future workplaces will also require team work and strong communication skills, and an ability to interact confidently and appropriately with others online is important.

Please watch this video by Professor Gilly Salmon in which she describes her five stage model for designing effective online learning. We will use this as a framework for discussing how to build an online community.

The five stage model (Salmon, 2013) encompasses:

  1. Access and Motivation: This stage involves individual access and the induction of students into online learning. Online activities should enable students to find their way around the online learning platform and feel comfortable in the online environment.

  2. Online socialisation: This stage involves students establishing their online activities and interacting with others. Online activities should help to build links between learners, letting them know who else is on the course and how to use knowledge to learn as a community.

  3. Information exchange: This stage involves course-related group discussions and collaborative interactions. Online activities should have a strong task and action focus where information and feedback is shared by learners with each other.

  4. Knowledge construction: At this stage online learners should now be able to work online, manage their time and work with each other. An online community has been established.

  5. Development: This is a stage of metacognition and critical reflection after the online community has been established.

The first three stages are important for building an online community and stage four and five occur following development of the online community. We will be exploring stages 1-3 in this resource.

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