My Journey Through Graduate School

When I created this instructional design blog for a course assignment in March, 2012, I never thought the time would pass so quickly while working on my Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology (MSIDT). Alas, here I am, nearly two years later enrolled in the final course. Wow! It sure has been a lot of work but as they say when exercising, ‘No pain, no gain’.

Along the way, I gained more than I lost, and it is not weight I am writing about in this post. Rather, I am really writing about the blessings which came to me while on my journey to achieve this graduate degree. How do your blessings stack up to mine?

  1. Wonderful classmates from a variety of employment fields including, but not limited to K-12 teachers, higher education instructors, military personnel, consultants, and a few healthcare professionals like myself; all with lots of experiences to share, plenty of reading assignments to complete, and weekly topics to master
  2. Super qualified, knowledgeable professors from a variety of educational settings and experiences
  3. Challenging discussions and assignments which forced me to think outside the box and support my views with scholarly references
  4. Comprehensive projects which exposed me to new technology and pushed me to learn new skills in instructional design
  5. A well-rounded graduate education which included courses on organizational change, learning theories, instructional design and advanced instructional design, foundations of research, distance learning, project management, multimedia design and development, program evaluation, assessments in online environments, online instructional strategies, and a capstone project
  6. Greater appreciation for the sacrifices students make to excel in their graduate studies while also working full time and caring for spouses, children, and other loved ones
  7. A healthy respect and appreciation for all of the university personnel involved in the assessment, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of each course in this 100% online graduate program
  8. A debt of gratitude to all of the technical staff, library personnel, advisors, financial aid specialists, and other support staff working behind the scenes to make our online experiences unforgettable

Now that my journey through graduate school is nearing its end, I find myself creating a bucket list of things to do, places to go, and people to see, starting on December 23, 2013, the day after the end of my last course. How does your bucket list compare to mine?

  1. Read my Bible, pray, and journal every day
  2. Eat more healthy
  3. Exercise more
  4. Get more sleep
  5. Drink more water
  6. Listen to inspiring music more often
  7. Read a book every week
  8. Resume volunteering at my church
  9. Volunteer in a local non-profit
  10. Spend more time with my husband, children, and grandchildren
  11. Make new friends and keep the old ones
  12. Send more cards and prepare more meals for shut-ins and the seriously ill
  13. Get debt-free
  14. Resume guitar lessons so my grandson and I can play together
  15. Clean my house, de-clutter, and re-organize

For sure, this journey had many curves and pot holes along the way, but the time it took to arrive at the final destination went much quicker than I ever imagined. I will miss my classmates, especially Sally, and also my professors, but I know when I submit the final assignment for the final course, I will be ready to let that chapter of my life close, and allow a new chapter to open, which I may write about on another day, at another time.


Constructing Quality Questions for Discussions

In the required resources for week seven, Palloff and Pratt (2007) discuss key concepts of collaborative learning and offer multiple strategies for promoting collaborative learning in the online learning environment. Of all the strategies utilized in online learning, none has had the impact on promoting collaborative learning and a sense of community quite like asynchronous discussions. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) compare discussion boards to campfires where members of the course community bond together while simultaneously acquiring new knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

For learners enrolled in higher education online programs, asynchronous discussions are a regular component of course activities, generally occurring on a weekly basis. Most often the discussion topics and reflective questions are created by instructional designers and facilitated by course instructors, assistants, and/or tutors who if they are not careful, may end up dominating the activity, thus promoting instructor-centered instead of learner-centered discussions (Baran & Correia, 2009).

One of the strategies for promoting collaborative learning is through the use of student-led discussions, also referred to as peer-facilitation, which Palloff and Pratt (2007), Boettcher and Conrad (2010), and Baran and Correia (2009) all advocate. Correia and Davis found online learners prefer peer-facilitated discussions because they are “more meaningful, interactive, and provide a stronger sense of community” (2007; as cited in Baran & Correia, 2007, p. 342). Whether you refer to these activities as student-led discussions or peer-facilitation, there are pros and cons for using this strategy in asynchronous discussions. In some scholarly circles, the question is still being asked, “Should students lead online discussions?

This question will act as the springboard for this week’s discussion. Using the cited references and additional resources, reflect upon the following questions as you formulate your responses to this posting.

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using student-led discussions for promoting collaborative learning in the online learning environment?
  • What facilitator roles and responsibilities should be included in a list of guidelines to help students be better prepared for leading online discussions?
  • Do you believe student-led discussions should be required or voluntary? Why? Please explain.
  • Briefly describe how you would conduct a student-led asynchronous discussion.

I look forward to receiving your feedback to this blog posting.

Click here to access the rubric for this discussion: WK7Assgn2BakerP-Rubric


Baran, E., & Correia, A. (2009). Student-led facilitation strategies in online discussions. Distance Education, 30(3), 339-361. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1080/01587910903236510

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Chapter 8: Promoting Collaborative Learning. In R. Palloff & K. Pratt, Building online communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Used with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center. Retrieved from

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

What plagiarism detection software is available to online instructors?

Plagiarism detection software comes in different shapes and sizes. Some are targeted to organizations such as faculty in academic institutions; others are targeted to individual users such as students and teachers. I conducted multiple search engine queries to find both free and subscription-based services which can be used by online instructors. The results below appear to be used most often.

  • Turnitin ( is targeted to faculty and administrators in academic institutions through site licenses. It was initially created by four University of California Berkeley graduate students. Turnitin services include “OrginalityCheck, GradeMark, and PeerMark” (Turnitin, 2013). There is a new version available for iPad users.
  • iThenticate ( offers professional plagiarism services for authenticating “faculty research, faculty-authored articles and textbooks, grant proposals, supplemental course materials, and dissertations and theses” (iThenticate, 2013). According to their web site, it was developed by Turnitin. Clients include Central Michigan University, Clemson University, University of Virginia, Texas Tech University, Purdue University, and University of Michigan (iThenticate, 2013).
  • EVE2: Essay Verification Engine ( is another version of plagiarism detection software, available via an individual license or organizational site license (EVE2, 2013).
  • Viper ( promotes itself as being a “free alternative” to Turnitin. Its product is only available for Microsoft Windows users (Viper, 2013) which may be considered a disadvantage for Mac and mobile device users. The site includes “free lesson plans on plagiarism and referencing” (Viper, 2013).
  • WriteCheck ( is a subscription-based service targeted to students which offers plagiarism detection, grammar checking, and writing tutors. It uses the same technology and scans the same databases as Turnitin (WriteCheck, 2013) so it could be used as a resource for teachers and online instructors not having access to other plagiarism detection software through their academic institutions.

How can the design of assessments help prevent academic dishonesty?

Assessing student progress in face-to-face classes has traditionally been done through the use of written assignments and exams. According to Palloff and Pratt, exams do not work well in the online environment and therefore should not be used (Laureate Education, n.d.). While written assignments continue to be used in both face-to-face and online courses as a means of assessing student progress, the availability of essays, written reports, and resources on the Internet from term paper mills and other sources have contributed to increasing incidents of plagiarism among high school and higher education students (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012; Larkham & Manns, 2002, Trevino & Butterfield, 2001; as cited in Chao, Wilhelm, & Neureuther, 2009). One way plagiarism is being done is through the deliberate copying and pasting of the thoughts and ideas of other persons without proper citation (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006).

To help prevent academic dishonesty, assessments should be redesigned using the following strategies:

  • Create assessments which are based on real-life experiences and expectations which cannot be easily duplicated by Internet sites intent on offering plagiarized materials for distribution and sale (Laureate Education, n.d.).
  • Utilize collaboration activities among groups of students for working on assignments and projects (Laureate Education, n.d.).
  • Involve students in assessment and reflection activities to add authenticity to assignments (Bassendowski & Salgado, 2005; as cited in Brown, Jordan, Rubin, & Arome, 2010).
  • Create assignments which encourage students to use critical thinking skills and application to their own lives (Bassendowski & Salgado, 2005, p. 4).
  • Add specific requirements to assignments which cannot be duplicated then change them every semester (Brown, Jordan, Rubin, & Arome, (2010).
  • Create course activities which utilize Internet tools such as blogs, wikis, chats, email, and online discussion boards for examples of each student’s writing style for plagiarism prevention (Baron & Cook, 2005; as cited in Brown et al., 2010, p. 117).
  • Provide learning resources for preventing plagiarism, hands-on practice with appropriate paraphrasing, and correct citation of resources (Chao et al., 2009

What facilitation strategies do you propose to use as a current or future online instructor?

As a future online instructor, it will be in my best interest to utilize facilitation strategies as recommended by Boettcher and Conrad (2010) so that the learner progresses through the four phases of engagement; i.e. “Newcomer, Cooperator, Collaborator, and Initiator or Partner” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 97); while at the same time the instructor moves through the four roles of “Social Negotiator, Structural Engineer, Facilitator, and Community Member
or Challenger” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 97). Facilitator strategies include the “creation of activities which require small group collaboration, problem solving, and reflecting on experiences through content discussions, role plays, debates, and jigsaws” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 97). It is also important as the online instructor, to slowly reduce my presence as the course proceeds through each week so it becomes increasingly learner centered while at the same time becomes less instructor centered, primarily to promote the sense of community among the students enrolled in the course (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

What additional considerations for online teaching should be made to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism?

Plagiarism detection and prevention strategies must include the use of plagiarism detection software. Researchers in Brown et al. (2010) indicated the number of documents manually scanned for positive evidence of plagiarism was lower than the number of documents electronically scanned for positive evidence of plagiarism. In contrast, it is well known, software such as Turnitin produces false positives, reporting “frequently used content-related phrases as non-original and website content changing from the time of submission to the verification of plagiarism by the faculty member” (Brown et al., 2010, p. 119). These false positives can unfairly penalize a good student through no fault of their own. It is therefore the responsibility of the instructor to contact the student to investigate the situation and determine if there indeed is a true positive case of plagiarism.

What did you learn that would help you implement effective online instructional strategies in the future?

Through course readings, supplemental resources, and writing for this blog assignment, I learned the importance of being proactive when it comes to detecting and preventing plagiarism.


Bassendowski, S. L., & Salgado, A. J. (2005). Is plagiarism creating an opportunity for the development of new assessment strategies? International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 2(1), 0-13. Retrieved from

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brown, V., Jordan, R., Rubin, N., & Arome, G. (2010). Strengths and weaknesses of plagiarism detection software. Journal of Literacy and Technology, 11(1/2), 110-131. Retrieved from

Chao, C., Wilhelm, W., & Neureuther, B. (2009). A study of electronic detection and pedagogical approaches for reducing plagiarism. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 51(1), 31-42. Retrieved from

EVE2 (2013, August 8). What is EVE2? Retrieved from

iThenticate (2013, August 8). About ithenticate: plagiarism detection software. Retrieved from

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15. Retrieved from

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Plagiarism and cheating [Video]. With Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Turnitin (2013, August 8). Turnitin features. Retrieved from

Viper (2013, August 8). Viper’s features. Retrieved from

WriteCheck (2013, August 8). Features: Why you’ll love writecheck. Retrieved from

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?

Learning environments, including face-to-face, blended, and online, are undergoing metamorphoses, driven by the changing demographics, experiences, and technology skills of its learners; the rapid rise of new technologies and new environments; and demands from learners of all ages, including those from the digital generation who prefer active learning instead of passive learning (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The ever changing face of technology provides instructors and learners with an eclectic assortment of tools for facilitating learning across the constructionist continuum, forever impacting the ways in which students learn and teachers teach. Web 2.0 and 3.0 technology tools including, but not limited to blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, web applications, mobile devices, flash, course management systems, video and picture sharing applications, clouds, social networking sites, twitter, web conferencing, and open source applications make it possible for students like me to construct knowledge from many sources. Many of these technology tools have become mainstays of course management systems such as instant messaging, email, discussion boards, blogs, and wikis (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012; Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Multimedia with its rich assortment of “visual forms of presentation” (Mayer, 1999, in press; Sweller, 1999; as cited in Mayer & Moreno, 2002, p. 88) including graphics, photo images, animation, audio, video, and text resources is greatly impacting the online environment. Through the use of these objects, students can be actively engaged in meeting their own learning needs in the online learning environment (Buckley & Smith, 2008). It is important to note, “Multimedia instructional environments are widely recognized to hold great potential for improving the way people learn” (Mayer, 1999, in press; Sweller, 1999; van Merrienboer, 1997; as cited in Mayer & Moreno, 2002, p. 87). In addition, the use of multimedia is known to be beneficial to people with different learning styles including visual, aural, and kinesthetic learners (Birch & Sankey, 2008).

What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?

I wrote this statement in a previous blog, but it bears repeating because of its relevance to this question, “From my professional experience of 17 years teaching face-to-face classes for various computer applications; I have learned the value of knowing the technology for which I am teaching” (Baker, 2013, p. 1). At a minimum, the online instructor should be very confident with using essential tools built into the course management system. Since discussions are a primary means for creating a sense of community and bonding among learners (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), the online instructor should plan on utilizing the discussion board to its fullest capability. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) recommend an incentive be attached to discussion board activities to encourage participation. For example, assigning a percentage of the total course grade, as is the practice at Walden University, is a motivating factor for students to participate in discussions. The online instructor should also be familiar with email, announcements, and using the grade book.

What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?

When I think of usability, the first question which comes to my mind is, “How user friendly is the course site?” But, according to Cooper, Colwell, and Jelfs (2007), the definition of usability goes much deeper; in an e-learning environment; usability refers to the “effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users can achieve specified learning goals” (Cooper et al., 2007, p. 232). A second question, and probably more important in regards to usability is, “How can the technology tool be utilized by the student to complete learning assignments, projects, or discussions”?

In contrast, accessibility is the “ability of the learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners” (IMS Global Learning Consortium, 2002; as cited in Cooper et al., 2007, p. 232). The question here is, “Is the course management system flexible”? A second question, “Is the learning resource capable of meeting the needs and preferences of all users”? According to Cooper et al., “accessibility and usability are intrinsically linked; the lower the level of accessibility of a resource for an individual, the less usable it will be for them” (2007, p. 232). Obviously, the online instructor and instructional designer designing the course need to make every effort possible to maintain a high level of usability and accessibility for the technology tools and learning resources.

What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?

If I have the opportunity to be an instructor for an online course delivered through a course management system, I will quickly become proficient in using all of its built-in technology tools including the use of the discussion board, blog, uploading course assignments, and instant messaging. In addition, I anticipate quickly becoming proficient with the course management system’s instructor tools including the grade book, discussion analysis tool, announcements, grading rubrics, and other instructor components of the system. I understand the benefits of utilizing the discussion board, though one strategy I would consider using is providing opportunities for students to create their own discussion topics and questions based on the learning goals to be achieved for that week.

What did you learn that would help you implement effective online instructional strategies in the future?

In the course readings for this week and this blog assignment, I learned about the online activities occurring in the “early middle weeks” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 100) of the course. I also learned strategies for promoting a teaching presence; expanding my teaching tool set; nurturing the content and learning community, and pedagogical uses for technology tools most beneficial in this phase of the course.

Baker, P. (2013). Setting up an online experience. [Blog]. Unpublished document.

Birch, D., & Sankey, M. D. (2008). Drivers for and obstacles to the development of interactive multimodal technology-mediated distance higher education courses. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (IJEDICT), 4(1), 66-79. Retrieved from

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Buckley, W., & Smith, A. (2007). Application of multimedia technologies to enhance distance learning. Heldref Publications, 39(2), 57-65. Retrieved from

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245. DOI: 10.1080/09687760701673659

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2002). Animation as an aid to multimedia learning. Educational Psychology Review, 14(1), 87-99. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Multimedia Introduction

Welcome to the course orientation for Workplace Safety. I am Penelope, your instructor for this course. I have 17 years’ experience, working as an instructional technology educator and instructional designer; with 9 years’ experience as a learning management system administrator.

For the first 20 years of my career, I was a registered nurse. I graduated from a hospital-based nursing program in 1976; earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in 1992, and expect to graduate in December 2013 with a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology.

Instructor Information


Work Phone: 1-800-761-7536

Office Location: Lydia, Maryland

Office Hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM Eastern

Contact: The best way to contact me is via email. I am online most days and will return your message within 48 hours. You may also call and leave a voice message on my phone. Issues of a personal nature should be addressed in an email message to me. For issues which may benefit the entire group, please use the Contact the Instructor section in the course site.

Notes: I am a native Marylander, having grown up eating steamed crabs, mountain mushrooms, Red Velvet cake, and other delicacies. My hobbies are listening to music, reading, and baking cakes. My most requested cakes are Red Velvet, Chocolate with Peanut Butter Icing, and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. I also enjoy camping with my family in our RV.

Please leave a comment on my blog, remembering to include your reasons for taking this course and what you hope to learn in the next eight weeks.

Click on the Play button to listen to this podcast:

To illustrate the possibilities for combining audio narration and multimedia, I created a speaking avatar for this introduction. An avatar is a character in a virtual world; often representing an actual person (Baker, Wentz, & Woods, 2009). This avatar is a representation of me, your instructor.

Avatars have the ability to engage online students in interactions with the instructor and other students (Baker et al., 2009, p. 59). In addition, the use of virtual world avatars helps to build a sense of community in the online environment (Steinkuehler & Williams, 2006; as cited in Baker et al., 2009, p. 59).

My introduction begins by having the avatar speak using narration typed into a text box on the Voki website (Voki, 2013). In the second half of my introduction, I uploaded a pre-recorded MP3 audio file, recorded in Audacity, a free digital audio editor (Audacity, 2013). Using a pre-recorded audio file allows for a longer introduction and adds a human touch to the speaking avatar. The audio for this last section was recorded as a podcast.


Audacity (2013, July 27). About audacity. Retrieved from

Baker, S. C., Wentz, R. K., & Woods, M. M. (2009). Using virtual worlds in education: Second life as an educational tool. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 59-64. DOI: 10.1080/00986280802529079

Voki (2013, July 27). Create speaking avatars and use them as an effective learning tool. Retrieved from

Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you? From my professional experience of 17 years teaching face-to-face classes for various computer applications including Microsoft’s Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Word; I have learned the value of knowing the technology for which I am teaching. As an instructor, it is my responsibility to be the subject matter expert of the application which the students are expected to learn and use within my organization. If I am not confident in using the application, my students generally are able to discern that insecurity, simply by watching my non-verbal body language and listening to the insecurity in my tone of voice. My insecurity may result in a loss of motivation and commitment on behalf of the students. As an instructor, this is not a good situation for the students and their need to learn how to use the application; likewise it is not good for the credibility of the instructor.

To boost my knowledge and skills of the technology applications I teach, I always build sufficient preparation time into my schedule. In addition, in my early years of instructing computer applications, I started out teaching beginner level courses; progressing to teaching intermediate and advanced skill levels as my own skills advanced to the same levels. I am a firm believer when it comes to technology, to teach it, you have got to use it.

My professional experiences align well with Boettcher and Conrad (2010) in their recommendation for online instructors to begin by focusing on essential technology tools then progressing to more advanced tools as they gain experience and confidence with teaching in an online environment. At a minimum, the online instructor needs to be proficient with using these essential tools within the institution’s course management system (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010):

  • Uploading text, PDF, and other documents
  • Creating and using online discussion forums
  • Using the grade book
  • Creating and sending announcements

In today’s world of technology skills, I believe it is also essential for new online instructors to have knowledge and skills for creating and using blogs. Additionally, it is also wise for the online instructor to be aware of the general differences in technology experiences from one generation of learners to another. Learners from the millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2005, have grown up with technology and in general are very experienced with using computers, the internet, social networking sites, and multitasking (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).

On the other hand, learners from the silent generation, baby boomer generation, and generation X may be less tech-savy because they have not grown up using technology all their lives (Simonson et al., 2012). Therefore, online instructors need to include activities which help to identify generational learners. To accommodate older learners with potentially less skills for using technology, instructors should include additional technology support resources. This is especially important if it is the learner’s first online course, or as Boettcher and Conrad (2010) recommend, it encourages learners to contact technology support staff instead of contacting the instructor for technology issues.

Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners? Creating a smooth and trusting online environment includes providing clear expectations to learners (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Learners need to know what is expected of them and what is expected from the instructor. Communicating expectations should include the following: Instructor availability and response time for returning phone calls and emails; guidelines for submitting assignments, discussions, and projects; when to log into the online course for the first time and how often to log in each week, approximate time commitments to complete course requirements; length of posts and assignments; grading policies and practices for late submissions (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). In addition, expectations should be communicated in multiple ways including through the course syllabus, instructor announcements, and instructions for individual assignments and projects (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience? Boettcher and Conrad (2010), offer a wealth of information for setting up an online learning experience. From reading chapters four and five of their text, these considerations seem to fall into a few major categories for online instructors.

  1. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Do it often and do it in a variety of ways to connect with your learners.
  2. Prepare in advance. Consider creating a test site to practice before your first online course.
  3. Build Learner to Content, Learner to Learner, and Learner to Faculty activities into the online course.
  4. Promote social, cognitive, and teaching presence among learners and faculty by using essential technology tools within the institution’s course management system.
  5. Get to know your students’ minds individually as in Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development to determine what is in their minds now and what they think they know (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 79).
  6. Use discussion boards to their fullest capabilities, remembering asynchronous discussion boards offer the greatest impact for building learner to learner relationships in online courses.

What did you learn that would help you implement effective online instruction in the future? From this week’s resources, I learned how important it is to start off on the right foot as an online instructor including how to build course themes; incorporate presence and community into the online course; and ensure expectations are clear and understandable. In addition, I learned which technology tools are considered essential and which ones can be added later as the instructor gains experience. I also learned a huge amount of useful information in the Ten Tips for Course Beginnings (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The knowledge I gained from this week’s course readings and assignment have prepared me well for implementing my first online course as an online instructor.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Online Learning Communities

Online Learning Communities

Learning Communities No Title Xsm


This week I am sharing my thoughts regarding Online Learning Communities which is one of the topics included in EIDT
6510 – Online Instructional Strategies
, a graduate course at Walden
University. To prepare for this assignment, I viewed the video program “Online Learning Communities” with Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt (Laureate Education, n.d.).

What is a learning community? Palloff and Pratt define it as a “community of students and faculty who explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content” (Laureate Education, n.d.). Learning communities occurring in the web environment, such as within a course management system (CMS) are known as “online” learning communities (Chang, 2003; Jonassen, 1993, 1996; Lock, 2002; Palloff & Pratt, 1999; as cited in Lee, Carter-Wells, Glaeser, Ivers, & Street, 2006). Rovai’s definition of an online learning community is more descriptive; “mutual interdependence among members, a sense of belonging, connectedness, spirit, trust, interactivity, common expectations, shared values and goals, and overlapping histories among members” (2002, p. 2; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 14). This final definition describes online learning communities in higher education; “groups of learners and instructors, supported by instructional and learning resources, pursuing common knowledge-interests in an online environment” (Morrison & Shrivastave, 2001, p. 3; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 14).

For clarification, online learning communities are also referred to as “communities of practice” (Brown & Issacs, 1995; Johnson, 2001; Rogers, 2000; Wenger, 1998; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. p. 14) and “virtual communities” (Brook & Boal, 1995; Lockhard, 1996; Rheingold, 1993; Schuler, 1996; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 14). I will use the term online learning community or its plural version from this point forward.

How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?  According to Palloff and Pratt (Laureate Education, n.d.), student satisfaction and their perception of learning both increase with participation in online learning communities. In addition, students indicate feeling like they are part of something bigger, while also experiencing a social pressure to succeed (Laureate Education, n.d.). Online learning communities significantly impact student learning and their satisfaction within online courses by allowing students to “get to know one another; introducing them to the course management system; and orienting them to the philosophy of online learning” (Laureate Education, n.d.)

What are the essential elements of online community building? The essential elements for building a learning community include people, purpose, and process (Laureate Education, n.d.). When people have a reason for belonging to an online learning community, they have purpose; the way in which the course is delivered provides the process. Method refers to the manner in which students interact and connect with one another, while social presence is the degree of awareness one person has for other members of the online learning community even when they cannot see one another (Laureate Education, n.d.).

How can online learning communities be sustained? Online learning communities are sustained through the engagement of its members. In other words, learners need to be engaged and participate often. As shared by Dr. Palloff in the video program, “The power of learning communities is learner-to-learner engagement” (Laureate Education, n.d.). In a “constructivist paradigm”, learners provide the major direction for acquiring knowledge through their interactions and collaborations with one another (Lee et al., 2006, p. 20).

Instructors functioning as facilitators also play a role in sustaining online learning communities. They must be engaged and participate often. Dr. Pratt recommends facilitators access the online learning community at least once daily for the first two weeks to offer support and guidance to new students, especially those who are adult learners (Laureate Education, n.d.).

What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction? According to Lave and Wenger (1991; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 20), online learning communities are known for promoting learning curriculums rather than teaching curriculums. Learning curriculums provide learners with a flexible “field of resources” which they use while participating in the online learning communities. Teaching curriculums do the opposite; structuring the resources and controlling learners’ access to them. (1991; as cited in Lee et al., 2006, p. 20). While the sample size in a case study analysis was small with only 18 participants, and should be further investigated to verify validity; its findings revealed 87% of respondents indicated when they “received positive feedback on their progress as learners, their sense of community improved” (Lee et al., 2006, p. 21).

What did I learn? By completing this assignment, I learned about the important role online learning communities have in promoting effective online instruction. It is not simply a matter of reading a text book and answering questions. Learners need to be engaged in the learning process which is best done through involvement in their online learning communities.


Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.).  Online Learning Communities [Video]. With Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt.

Lee, J., Carter-Wells, J., Glaeser, B., Ivers, K., & Street, C. (2006). Facilitating the development of a learning community in an online graduate program. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 7(1), 13-33. Retrieved from