“When we are not dependent on each other, a learning community cannot exist.”
This profound insight resonated with me as I navigated the complexities of online learning communities. It highlighted a fundamental truth: the success of these communities relies heavily on interdependence, underpinned by a sense of belonging and shared purpose.
In my experiences building successful online learning communities, I’ve learned that fostering this sense of belonging and purpose is vital. Individuals who feel valued and integral to the community are more motivated to engage and learn. However, I also observed a trend within self-selected groups. Despite the expectation of natural cohesion and belonging, these groups often tended toward uniformity. This was clearly illustrated in Smart and Csapo’s (2003) study, which highlighted that self-selected groups frequently lack the diversity and varied resources essential for high productivity, especially in educational contexts.
To tackle this challenge, I plan to implement a new ‘Two Plus Two’ method for group formation in my future online courses. Here, students initially pair with a chosen peer, fostering comfort and initial belonging. Then, as an instructor, I’ll merge these pairs with another duo, enriching the group with diverse interactions and perspectives. I believe this method will blend the comfort of familiar relationships with the dynamic benefits of diverse group membership, enhancing the overall learning experience.
Reflecting on my online learning journey, I’ve recognized the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones, particularly in participating in learning communities. It’s in embracing the diverse and seemingly chaotic array of perspectives that profound learning emerges. This experience highlights that in the expansive world of online education, the most enriching experiences can arise from the diversity and interconnectedness of its participants.
Smart, K. L., & Csapo, N. (2003). Team-based learning: Promoting classroom collaboration. Issues in Information Systems, 4(1), 316-322.