Developing a Sense of Community and the Online Student Experience
Education for Information Volume 32, Number 4, ISSN 0167-8329
This research explores the intersections among learners, online learning, and the development of a sense of community by critically evaluating Canada's first fully-online Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program at the University of Alberta. A survey with open and closed questions was distributed to all students in the inaugural cohort (39 students who began the program in Fall 2013), which asked about the students' experiences in the online program and their perceptions of what facilitated and what hindered a sense of community from developing among their cohort. Findings were analyzed using Wenger's communities of practice and Rovai's four dimensions of classroom community. Eighty-four percent of respondents (27 out of 32) reported that they felt a sense of community in the online program. Factors that promoted a sense of community included opportunities to build relationships, the program structure and content, and the process of enculturation into the program and the profession. Factors inhibiting a sense of community from developing included workload, other obligations, issues regarding time such as time management, and the nature of online learning. Implications for developing a sense of community among online cohorts and areas for future research are discussed.
Oliphant, T. & Branch-Mueller, J. (2016). Developing a Sense of Community and the Online Student Experience. Education for Information, 32(4), 307-321.