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A study of students' sense of learning community in online environments
Shea, Peter

PublishedFebruary 2006
JournalJournal of Asynchronous Learning Networks
Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 35-44
CountryUnited States, North America

This paper looks first at some of the often unspoken epistemological, philosophical, and theoretical assumptions that are foundational to student-centered, interactive online pedagogical models. It is argued that these foundational assumptions point to the importance of learning community in the effectiveness of online learning environments. Next, a recent study of 2314 online students across thirty-two college campuses is presented. This study reports on learners’ sense of community and it is concluded through factor and regression analysis that elements of the Community of Inquiry model [1]—specifically learners’ recognition of effective “directed facilitation” and effective instructional design and organization on the part of their instructor contributes to their sense of shared purpose, trust, connectedness, and learning—core elements of a community of learners. Gender also appears to play a small role in students’ sense of learning community with female students reporting higher levels than their male classmates. Implications for online learning environments design are discussed.

Keywords learning community · sense of community · community of inquiry

CoI focusTeaching presence
Study designQuestionnaire
Data analysisExploratory factor analysis
InstrumentClassroom Community Scale
Sample size2314
Study aim"To define and evaluate online learners' feelings and recognition of learning community."
Finding"The respondents to the survey were more likely to report a stronger sense of learning community when they also reported that their instructors exhibited stronger “teaching presence” behaviors."
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The Community of Inquiry is a project of Athabasca University, Mount Royal University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, as well as researchers and members of the CoI community.