Posts Tagged ‘edtech504’


Building Community in Online Classrooms, an Annotated Bibliography

March 17th, 2014 Comments off

One of the most significant challenges in online courses is the lack of natural community.  In a traditional classroom, learners meet on a regular basis—often multiple times per week.  In this type of environment, a sense of community naturally forms.  It still needs direction from the instructor, but the foundations are already in place.  Additionally, learners are, for the most part, based in geographically similar locations.  This similarity creates possibilities for learner interaction outside of class (i.e. Other classes, off campus locations, or activities).  In the online classroom, these conditions rarely exist.  The natural camaraderie and sense of community will not develop since learners are separated by time and distance.  Additionally the digital wall of the internet provides a sense of anonymity and isolation that can lead to students getting lost in hustle and bustle of class activities.  It’s difficult to notice students who are not participating.  Instructors must introduce new activities, practices, and methods so that the sense of community is developed and the learning community is formed.  I’m interesting in pursuing research on best practices, methods, and activities that help to promote community in online classrooms.  I’ve directed my research in this annotated bibliography with that in mind.


Arbaugh, J. B. (2000). Virtual classroom versus physical classroom: An exploratory study of class discussion patterns and student learning in an asynchronous internet-based mba course. Journal of Education Managment24(2), 213-233. doi: 10.1177/10525629000240020

A study was designed in which two different sections of a graduate class in a MBA program at a Midwestern U.S. university.  One class was delivered in a traditional format in a traditional classroom.  The other section was delivered online via an LMS called LearningSpace.  The study was conducted in 1997 and is designed to measure student performance and discussion patters in the traditional classroom versus the online classroom.  With the exception of an initial meeting to go over course software and a final meeting for feedback and reflection, the internet based course did not meet during the period that the course was administered.  One of the major findings in the study was that women tended to engage in discussion more frequently in the internet based course.  Also, student learning did not appear to diminish in the online course.  The article provides a snapshot of online learning nearly two decades ago and shows similar issues with the environment and community building.  The study helps show me that the sense of community is and has been important in any learning environment and that even more effort is required to help create that community in an online course.


Bond-Hu, D. & Fiorello, P. (2003). Design Strategies for Building Community in Online Classrooms. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2003 (pp. 2350-2354). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved March 17, 2014 from

While this article is not so much a study, but an analysis of the current state of online learning.  There are discussions of current issues and problems with online learning and focuses on the loss of community learners might feel.  Probably causes are discussed and various methods of how to build the community in the online environment are given.  The article discusses the transactional-based models of online education. This article will actually be tremendously helpful for me in my research area.  One of the areas of focus for me is how to increase the sense of community.  There are numerous examples here and include with those examples are the methodologies and theories behind their success.


Conrad, D. (2005). Building and maintaining community in cohort-based online learning. Journal of Distance Education, 20(1), 1-20. Retrieved from

This study followed graduate students as they worked online in their program.  Data was collected several times over a five-year period. The students underwent initial baseline testing.  It was mostly qualitative in nature and include surveys, interviews, and questionnaires.  The study looks to answer questions like “How does a sense of community develop and who develops it?” and “Does every online group find its sense of community?”  The program used WebCT for delivery and did require two sessions of face-to-face meetings during the two-year master’s program.  The study found that, while initially concerned with online environments, they expected support from instructors and administrators.  While that support was delivered, toward the end of their degree program, leaners stated to see the sense of community developing from other sources such as fellow students, spouses, and the sense of belonging.  One of the main community building techniques that was employed was threaded discussion forums to encourage participation and interaction with peers and the instructors.  This study furthers my research and provides evidence that once solid community building practices are in place, the natural sense of community that is lost when translating from the traditional classroom to the online can be regained and created even if extra steps have to be taken to start the process.


Hill, J. R. (2002). Overcoming obstacles and creating connections: Community building in web-based learning environments. Journal of Computing in Higher Education14(1), 67-86. doi: 10.1007/BF02940951

Janet Hill, author of Chapter 11 in our course text-book, discusses building a community of learners as a means of increasing the quality, participation, and engagement of learners in the online classroom.  She addresses the questions that are being asked about online learning like, “Why is it important to establish a community within a learning context?”.   She discusses issues and challenges associated with community building.  Some of the issues discussed are space issues such as isolation and disconnections, no face-to-face contact.  Time is another factor that affects online environments.  Learners are not used to working in an asynchronous environment.  She discusses in detail, many methods of creating a sense of community in the online classroom like creating a psychologically safe environment, helping learners to create good web-based learning habits, and reminding that the learner that someone is out there to connect with.  The article, much like the chapter in our text-book provides me with many great methodologies and the educational theories behind them that will help with my research and my practice as an online teacher.  It also does a good job of identifying some of the major issues that plague some online courses.


McInnerney, J. M., & Roberts, T. S. (2004). Online learning: Social interaction and the creation of a sense of community. Educational Technology and Society7(3), 73-81. Retrieved from

This article focuses on a topic that, I feel, is the most significant issue with online education—the sense of isolation that learners may feel when participating in an online course.  It also discusses a topic that I find interesting and that has a factor in online learning situations—the virtual self.  The virtual self is what people present to the online world.  We all have experience with this as we use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  We tend to interact in ways that may not be the same as we would in a face-to-face meeting.  The paper also describes some methods to overcome the sense of isolation and the differences in the real self and virtual self.  It talks about social context and how it is important to online learning and other educational theories that tie in to online community and online learning.  The article helps my research as it focuses on a point that other studies and papers have not yet—the virtual self.

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,


Module 3 Reflection

March 17th, 2014 Comments off

At the beginning of this semester I did what I always do and look ahead at the projects and assignments that I will do over the course of the semester. I’m always a little overwhelmed by research papers. I know it is odd since I am a writer and English teacher but research papers have always given me trouble. I over think them and create a lot of anxiety. That anxiety always lasts until I get started and I feel that the creation of this annotated bibliography has helped me get over that anxiety. I have found a topic and already started doing research. I didn’t get to thoroughly read all of the resources that I found, but I have many that now will help synthesize a discussion about community building being a key to a successful online course. I’m excited about it and looking forward to the next module as I begin to delve deeper and start writing. I’m also excited about the peer review process. Throughout my undergraduate career, I participated in many writing workshops. Many of those workshops were for various creative writing courses. I’ve always felt that the workshop or peer review is an effective and useful way to hone writing. I’ve used it many times in my own classes that I facilitated a well. I’ve always been interested in building the community. In my professional work training agents online to provide technical support over the phone, one of the areas that I focus on is breaking the walls that agents put up. I take a group of people from all over the country who have never met and turning them into a community by breaking their walls and drawing them out. I do a lot of things, but my environment is mostly synchronous and does not suffer from all of the issues that the asynchronous environment can. As, I don’t plan on staying in my corporate position indefinitely, I am very interested in building a learning community form groups of people who meet asynchronously. If I were doing a Master’s thesis or if I do a doctoral dissertation one day, this would be my area of focus. How to best create the community and the direct and measurable benefits to student learning.


Module 2 Reflection

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

This module was a lot of review.  It reminded me of my undergraduate days.  I was drawn to one particular category of theories.  Connectivism has always intrigued me.  It always has made sense to me that we learn by making connections.  That’s how I remember things.  It’s not so much the knowledge, but the circumstances and locations that I learned it in.  I also believe strongly in the PLN and CoP.  While my memory is rather good, I don’t think it’s possible to learn and retain everything that I need to know in order to do my job.  Instead, I focus on retaining where I can find the information.  With the internet and the mass amount of information available to us now, it’s really only the smart thing to do.  It’s something that I do with my students.  I pull the information from them.  I focus on content, but I also focus on using tools that help students find and relate to the content.  With the rapid flow of information that we have today, students are accustomed to being bombarded with it and having it at their fingertips.  I see no reason to try to fight this.  Instead, I encourage students to use their phones and look up information.  I encourage the creation of personal learning networks.  The role of a teacher, my role, is not to put information in student’s heads.  It’s to expose them and teach them how to create their own web of learning where they can connect with and put the information in context.  I guide them to find the answers that are relevant to their interests, needs, and inclinations.  I guide them to create their own connections and context so they can develop a deeper understanding of the content.


Communities of Practice

February 24th, 2014 Comments off


Classified as a constructivist theory, a community of practice is a group of people who interact with each other to share knowledge and learn from each other.  Communities of practice have a domain, community and a practice in order to be successful and useful.  (“Communities of practice,”)  Examples could include a professional teacher’s group that discusses various web 2.0 tools to further education such as Classroom 2.0 (   According to Penelope Echkert (2006), a community of practice is “is a collection of people who engage on an ongoing basis in some common endeavor.  Communities of practice emerge in response to common interest of position.


The founders and major contributors the theory of communities of practice are Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger.  Initially introduced in 1991, Wenger furthered the theory in 1998.

Major Principles

As connectivist theory, CoPs foster learner when members make connections with peers and learn from other’s experience as they are shared.  Communities of practice (CoP) must contain three items in order to be an actual community of practice.  First of all the CoP has to be centered on a specific topic.  This is called the domain.  The domain is specific and commitment to the domain is required from the members.  For example a group of neighbors that live on the same street would not be considered a domain.  Just because they all live on the same street does not qualify.  Now, a group of neighbors interested in and committed to making their street more beautiful with landscaping could fall under the definition of a domain.  By the necessity of the commitment, arises the community.  Community is a specific requirement of a CoP.  The community members are all working and interacting with each other and completing similar activities.  Finally, the CoP requires a practice.  Practice implies professionalism.  Practice means that the members are professionals that work in the same area as the domain.  They must be committed to and practicing.  So the example of neighbors working to beautify their street, unless they are all professional landscapers, does not meet the definition of a CoP.  

Other principles of a CoP include sharing stories, best practices, methodology, and other pertinent information related to the practice so that all members of the CoP can increase skill and perform their practice more efficiently.  The CoP can also be applied to students, especially in a college setting.  Students can become involved in a CoP to help them gain better understanding of their field of study.  A CoP is a community of professional or academic development.  A faculty of teachers who teach English at a public high school that often relate stories and best practices so that all teachers benefit and can improve their practice would meet all definitions of a community of practice.


Closely related to the CoP is the Personal Learning Network (PLN).  PLNs are a form of CoP in which members create and cultivate networks of people and resources such as blogs, wikis, and other web 2.0 tools to foster learning.  While PLNs don’t always involve two-way exchanges, they often do.  PLNs are broader than CoPs in that they are personally created by each individual and contain more than one PoC. PLNs can be used in the classroom to help students develop connections to the outside world so that they can develop skills in their chose field of study.  By joining professional organizations like the NEA for teachers and groups on the web like the teachers in Classroom 2.0, students can create vast PLNs with multiple CoPs.  An instructional approach that can be used is to foster and require students to find information within these PLNs.  Rather that provide knowledge and information to the student, pull the information from the student.  Require them to find and guide them when needed.


Communities of practice (Lave and Wenger). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Eckert, P. (2006). Communities of practice. Retrieved from


Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,


Module 1 Reflection

February 10th, 2014 Comments off

I currently train adult learners in a corporate setting.  I work from home and my learners are learning from home.  I provide synchronous lessons through Adobe Connect.  In my case the technology (internet, Adobe Connect, and other communication tools) was implemented for the sake of expanding the workforce and connecting with more potential employees.  My company provides telephone technical support for customers of a national company.  There are physical sites throughout the U.S. but turnover can be high in a call center and sometimes the recruiting pool is not very large.  By expanding operation to a work-at-home environment, the application pool is larger and more diversified, but this has presented some challenges.

The project has suffered from poor planning and implementation of policies and procedures.  Often, as the instructor, I spend a good deal of time helping my agents deal with and solve technical issues.  In the world of bring your own device, my company does not provide the equipment.  Each employee must provide their own computer and interact with the company VPN through a company provided USB disk that houses the operating system.  This USB disk suffers problems and is still in the testing stages.  It is frustrating now when training a class, but at the same time, I am on the ground floor and am helping to create the change needed to bring the program to a better position.

This is my last semester in the EDTECH program before completing my portfolio.  I’ve attempted this course two other times but have had to withdraw due to medical issues.  I have the benefit, at this point, of quite a few classes and can be of better assistance at work.  Using policies and practices in this program, I have helped design processes and instruction to help agents struggling with the tech side of work.  In a national large program like this, teaching the tech is needed.  Many people come to the company with little or no knowledge of the tech they use to do their job.  Many of the trainers in the program don’t know the tech that well either.

Looking at the material for this module, I can’t help but ponder what used to be considered educational technology advancements.  Take the pencil for example.  This is such a commonplace item now.  Everyone knows how to use it, but when it was first introduced in the classroom, it’s hard for me to imagine using it for the first time.  This is a similar feeling that I have now.  I worked my way to trainer in my company in a traditional brick and mortar site.  I trained in a traditional classroom for over a year.  It has been a big change for me when I started working from home.  I’ve had to adjust and interact with my equipment in ways that I haven’t before.  I’ve had to create processes and procedures for myself that I turn around and teach to other trainers and agents.  We’re still in the formative stage now, but we are growing and discovering a lot of best practices.


Definition of Educational Technology

February 7th, 2014 Comments off

When I was in High school, we had a computer lab full of old (even for the time) Macs that were used to teach typing most of the time.  I didn’t have a computer until just before I graduated and even that one was about four generations older than the most updated system.  College was just beginning to get on the computer bandwagon.  I had access to computers but only if I paid a fee every semester.  Needless to say, my most immersive experience with technology in high school was an old TI-81 graphing calculator and an overhead transparency projector.  I was still fascinated by it.  I learned how to use computers on an old IBM PC running Microsoft DOS.  I loved it and as my PC knowledge progressed, so did my passion for technology.

I am a strong proponent for technology in the classroom.  Students are different today.  They are used to readily available information from multiple channels simultaneously and they have to ability to switch those channels quickly.  It’s not that they have shorter attention spans; it’s that they have such a large quantity of information available to them, that they have learned to ignore what is important to them.

With this in mind, we, as educators, need to build technology tools into the curriculum that can take advantage of  all that is out there, but we need some guidelines.  So, to start we need a definition of educational technology.

Educational technology is not simply technology that is in a classroom or used for classroom purposes.  The technological tool needs to have purpose, be useful, and advance the learning objectives.  It cannot simply be  technology for the sake of technology.

I also think that technology needs to be defined as well.

Here are the definitions that I propose.

Technology is any piece of hardware, software or process that uses hardware or software.

Educational technology is any of the following.

1.)    Technology that enhances an educational experience.

2.)    Technology that adds something to the learning that is unique and purposeful.

3.)    Technology that adds something that could not otherwise be included in the instruction

4.)    Technology that aids in the facilitation and distribution of instruction to students who could not otherwise participate in the instruction (i.e. Distance or online education).

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,