Creating a Culture of Community in Online Courses
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Title – Creating a Culture of Community in Online Courses Margaret Edwards, Ph.D,, R.N. & Beth Perry, Ph.D., R.N. Purpose – This presentation focuses on the facilitation of a culture of community in online courses using selected interactive teaching strategies such as photovoice, conceptual quilting, and online point-counterpoint debates. The presentation is based on our experience designing and teaching online courses and on original research. It demonstrates how these strategies can enhance learning and contribute to a culture of community. Successful practices with concrete examples, substantiated by research findings, are the centerpiece of this paper. Design– The research that informs this presentation was an exploratory qualitative study. Participants described their experiences with selected teaching strategies through anonymous online surveys. Findings - The presentation describes how the interactive teaching strategies helped to transform the virtual classroom into a learning community that took on elements of a shared culture. A shared culture is defined as an environment in which participants experience an alignment of purpose and a sense of cohesion. In such an educational environment students and teachers engage in an academic dialogue leading to a mutually satisfying learning experience. The interactive teaching technologies assisted in achieving a culture of community by enhancing levels of social interaction. Practical implications – Educators who design and teach courses online will discover many practice implications in this presentation. The teaching technologies described can be applied to courses in various subject areas. The findings could guide those who are striving to create a culture of community in online courses. Exemplary online educators Margaret Edwards, Ph.D., R.N. and Beth Perry, Ph.D., R.N Within most disciplines there are those who are recognized as being exceptionally competent practitioners. These people are sometimes called exceptional or exemplary. The commonality of these exemplary practitioners is that they do their work in a remarkable way and their teaching strategies and interpersonal interactions are regarded by their students as highly successful. This study focuses on exemplary online educators with the goal of discovering what teaching approaches and strategies used by online educators, students identify as being exceptionally effective. Graduates who completed their degree requirements online were interviewed to solicit their input regarding what makes an online educator effective and exemplary. The responses were reviewed through thematic analysis. The themes identified included the educator as challenger, the educator as affirmer, the educator having power of expertise and presence and the educator learning with the student. One effect of these exemplary educators is the creation of an community of inquiry which seems to enhance the quality of the online learning experience. As educational institutions move towards offering more courses online, knowledge of the strategies and approaches that make online education effective will assist in improving the quality of education offered to the learners. By focusing, as this project does, on those educators who are identified by their students as exemplary, information is gained that will assist in the ongoing professional development of new and current faculty who are teaching in an online environment.