Effects of University and Departmental Community on Online Learners

min read
  • Research indicates that online learning environments are deficient in community, which negatively impacts learning.
  • Research on community in online learning programs focuses almost exclusively on the classroom, giving a false impression that community building is a classroom-only responsibility.
  • More attention needs to be given to online learners as members of department and university communities also.
  • Departments and universities should share online community-building responsibilities, which would free overburdened teachers to spend more time on content and allow online learners to interact more deeply in and out of the classroom.

When an online graduate student takes a class, the student becomes a member of that class’s community. The total learning community experienced in an academic program, however, is more just the sum of many class communities.  That’s because online graduate students are also members of an academic department community and a university community that exist independently of any single class (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1. Learners Aren’t Just Members of Classroom Communities

In the world of face-to-face university education, departmental or university community is easily identified. Walk into a department office on a brick and mortar campus and you quickly find department members (faculty, staff, students, and others) interacting. In the face-to-face world, community interaction is guaranteed outside the classroom. Even the most isolated face-to-face community members walk through a university campus to get to a classroom or an office, exposing them directly and indirectly to the interactions of other community members. Perhaps they see a student group promoting a cause at a folding table, or maybe they converse in the hallway as they wait for a classroom to become available.

In contrast, online students and faculty bypass these face-to-face university and departmental interactions when they enter their virtual classrooms. This lack of engagement by online participants raises two important questions:

  • Do online programs inadvertently or explicitly replace these missing physical interactions with other kinds of interactions?
  • Are these missing interactions affecting the learning community?

The study presented in this article takes a first step toward answering these questions by measuring how much university and departmental community occurs in the online Instructional Design and Technology (IDT) graduate program at Emporia State University (ESU).

Note that this study’s comparison of online and face-to-face instruction is not intended to suggest that one mode should emulate the other. Instead, face-to-face community is mentioned only to serve as a reference point to help better understand how much or how little community exists outside the online classroom.

A short Flash presentation summarizes the key elements and results of this study.

What Is Community?

Leslie Moller described a learning community as a group of people who exchange information and socially reinforce one another.1 These reinforcements and exchanges take academic, intellectual, and interpersonal forms. In this article, we use a simplified derivative of Moller’s model of community. We use the expressions “community” and “learning community” interchangeably and refer to Moller’s reinforcements and exchanges simply as interactions. Interpersonal information is referred to as feelings, and academic and intellectual information is referred to as ideas.

Generally speaking, community is a group of regularly interacting people who share feelings and ideas. Why do they interact in the first place? They have something in common.2 In the past, community members had to first share a physical space before they could share feelings and ideas. With the emergence of communication technologies (the postal system, telephone, Internet, and so forth), sharing things in common can occur independently of geography. When students, faculty, and staff interact in an online graduate program, they are liberated from having to share space but at the same time are limited by this absence of shared space.

Members of a university community have the university in common; members of a departmental community additionally have an academic department in common. Enrollment alone does not guarantee community membership, however. Rupert Wegerif3 described a social dimension of communities where individuals identify themselves as being either inside or outside the community. It is quite possible to be enrolled in a department but not identify oneself as a member of the departmental community.

Another important characteristic of community is the frequency of interaction. Alfred Rovai4 indicated that increased interaction leads to an increased sense of community. Additionally, interactions can occur between people in many different roles in a community. Faculty-student interactions are an important part of departmental community for example, but so are student-student interactions and faculty-faculty interactions. These types of interactions work together to bring people together in a community.

The boundaries of a community don’t always match the boundaries of the formal structures to which they are tied. This is easily seen in a classroom community, where member interaction takes place in social contexts both inside and outside the classroom.5 The same applies to university and departmental community: One need not interact in the physical department or discuss departmental topics to foster departmental community. We argue that a community’s strength is apparent in how much interaction takes place outside the formal structures of that community.

Why Study Community?

Research indicates that learning in a community has a positive effect on learning outcomes.6 By measuring how much or how little non-classroom community exists in an online program, we can begin to hypothesize how that amount of community might positively or negatively affect learning among online students.

A substantial amount of research suggests a positive relationship between community and learning outcomes. Rovai7 found that the most effective face-to-face schools also had the most supportive communities. Terry Anderson, Liam Rourke, Randy Garrison, and Walter Archer8 noted that social interactions stimulated learning. Ruth Brown9 found that the amount and speed of learning in online classrooms was affected by community participation, community retention, community engagement, and community satisfaction.

Communities with large amounts of interactive discourse are associated with deep learning.10 This discourse is not limited to ideas: Socio-emotional interaction and support have also been shown to be important in realizing positive educational outcomes.11 Strong community increases the willingness to share with and support others and thus increases the number of ideas that get shared.12

Learning is a social activity, and individuals learn more from their interactions with others than from reading alone.13 “Community” marks a qualitative difference between a collaborative community of inquiry and a simple process of downloading information.14 Merely receiving information encourages inactivity and discourages active thinking.15 Community facilitates active learning: “Without this connection to the instructor and the other students, the course is little more than a series of exercises to be completed.”16

Researchers have also studied how an absence of community affects learning. A low sense of community was shown to be related to student burnout and feelings of isolation.17 It has also been shown that the less faculty and students respond to each other, the lower the educational quality.18

Community matters because education is not only about access to content but also about access to communication and interaction.19 “The inability to interact freely with other students may exacerbate feelings of aloneness, and provide a less than ideal environment for successful study.”20

Why Study Community Outside the Classroom?

A great deal of research has been done on community and online learning, but it has focused almost exclusively on community inside the classroom and neglected the effects university and departmental communities might have on their members. Even where research has widened its scope from a single class to the interplay between multiple classes within a program, data has still been collected from within the classroom.

For example, Joyce Lee and her colleagues21 illustrated the need for study outside a single classroom:

“While several contemporary studies have explored how community evolved within the context of a university course taken online for a semester, very little research currently exists regarding how an online learning community evolved within the curricular scope and sequence of an online degree-granting program.”

They correctly drew attention to the need to study departmental community, but then executed their study by only looking at classroom structures, with no attempt to study departmental structures outside the classroom. Perhaps the reason these studies fail to recognize departments as independent of the classroom is that departmental and university structures are frequently underdeveloped or invisible in the online world.

The effect non-classroom community has on classroom community and on learning is potentially significant. Brown22 showed that previous community experience affects the way students build and behave in classroom communities: Veteran students leverage their past interactions. While Brown explained this in terms of one classroom community affecting another, her descriptions of interactions outside the classroom, such as students eating lunch together, refer to departmental and university community.

In the scope of one or two classes, community outside the classroom would have less of an opportunity to affect learning directly or indirectly. In a graduate program like IDT at ESU, students take 12 classes over two or more years. Throughout this time, IDT students, faculty, and staff interact in a multitude of ways, and the opportunity increases for the IDT and ESU communities to affect classroom communities and possibly learning.

Gerald Graff23 studied the danger of neglecting departmental community. He suggested that when all community is delivered through the classroom, students are forced to navigate many disconnected, separate classroom perspectives. Instead of one unified program, each course becomes its own mini program. Students develop what Graff called a protective courseocentrism. Without an IDT community presence, students are at risk of developing 12 separate, compartmentalized perspectives. This compartmentalization runs counter to a department’s goal of conveying a unified body of knowledge and a unified culture of the field of study.24

If all departmental and university goals were a subset of classroom goals, then allowing the classroom to deliver all community might make sense. However, departments and universities have goals independent of any one classroom. For example, a university wants to collect alumni dollars, and a department wants to deliver a unified perspective of its field. The ESU and IDT communities need to be nurtured as separate entities in order to tend to these goals directly — not hope they get addressed indirectly by isolated classroom communities.

A final justification for studying community outside the classroom rests upon research indicating that online classrooms need to explicitly build community structures that are built automatically in the face-to-face world.25 As Moller26 pointed out:

“In a traditional classroom environment the community is built-in to the instruction and occurs to some degree with little or no additional planning or effort. In asynchronous learning environments, communities have to be specifically designed, developed, and implemented.”

These needs to explicitly build community are based on the online mode of instruction’s weakness in conveying feelings and certain ideas. Since the online mode is also being used to deliver departmental and university community in graduate programs like ESU’s IDT, it follows that departmental and university communities are also limited by online delivery in ways similar to online classrooms.

Target Population for the Study

The target population for the study reported here was drawn from current and recently graduated students affiliated with the graduate program in IDT at ESU. The IDT curriculum is described on the IDT website (Question 1) as follows:

“All of the required courses are available via the Internet. Some required courses, but not those in IDT, are also offered in traditional settings. All required IDT classes are only offered via the web. Most IDT elective courses are offered via the web, but some are also offered on campus in Emporia, Kansas.”

The IDT curriculum is primarily delivered as an online graduate program with a small number of face-to-face electives offered.

Study Design and Results

The scope of this study was limited to collecting data on IDT students’ perceptions and relationships with the IDT and ESU communities. Using both an alumni and current-student e-mail list provided by the IDT department chair, 443 currently enrolled and graduated IDT master’s level students were e-mailed once and invited to complete a four-page, 46-question survey:

  • The first page of the survey asked questions on demographics.
  • The second page asked IDT community–related questions.
  • The third page asked ESU community–related questions.
  • The fourth page asked respondents to comment on the two communities.

Questions on pages two and three were structured on a five-point Likert scale with “1” representing the least amount of connectedness/happiness/agreement and “5” representing the most.

Seventy-three current and former IDT students completed the survey. With the exception of the page four comment fields, all survey responses were filled completely. Results relating to the IDT community (see Figure 2) showed that respondents expressed a low sense of connection to the department, but a medium sense of contentment with this level of connection. Weak feelings of community do not mean that members perceive this as a bad thing. Also note that just because community members don’t perceive weakened community as a negative doesn’t mean community has no effect on learning outcomes.

Respondents reported a low level of interaction with other IDT community members outside of classes. They developed friendships and professional relationships with other IDT community members at a low level and reported a low likelihood that they would stay in touch after completing the IDT program. Respondents did seem more inclined to develop such connections with faculty versus fellow students, although still at a low rate.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Online Learner Perceptions of Departmental Community

As previously mentioned, IDT does afford some students the opportunity to take a few elective classes face-to-face. In the survey a face-to-face class was defined as one where a respondent had any in-person, physical contact with at least one other member of the class. By this definition classes on the ESU campus were considered face-to-face, as were satellite classes.

Only two of the 73 respondents indicated taking more credit hours face-to-face than online. On average, respondents had taken 27.0 credit hours online and 2.2 credit hours face-to-face. When the responses of those who had taken at least one face-to-face credit hour were compared to those who had never taken a face-to-face credit hour, a gap appeared: For most IDT community questions, the face-to-face group responded more positively than the online-only group (see Figure 3). They reported feeling more connected to the IDT community than their online-only counterparts, and they were slightly more satisfied with this fact. Like the survey population as a whole, the face-to-face group reported having stronger friendships and professional relationships with faculty than with classmates. Compared to the online-only group, face-to-face respondents reported higher levels of connection across the board. Removing the face-to-face respondents from the sampled population made the disconnectedness of the online-only students from the IDT community even more pronounced.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Learner Perceptions of Departmental Community, Online Only vs. Some Face-to-Face

Respondents’ written comments about IDT community supported the notion that students had a reduced connection with other IDT community members. While comments variously lauded the IDT program, commented that the amount of community was fine, and noted students’ responsibility in building community, no respondent described the existence of an interaction-rich IDT community. Respondents were more likely to report that interaction was missing. Comments also supported the trend that students felt more connected to faculty than to their own learning peers.

Results relating to ESU community followed similar trends (see Figure 4). Respondents reported a low sense of connection to the university, but expressed a medium sense of contentment with this level of connection. Essentially, they felt disconnected but were somewhat tolerant of that fact. Respondents showed a higher connection to university services than to the university. As an example, respondents used Buzzin, the ESU web portal, at a high level to accomplish their university business (pay tuition bills, check grades, etc.) but at a low level to fulfill social needs (finding a sports score, chatting with friends, getting a theater schedule, etc.).

Figure 4

Figure 4. Online Learner Perceptions of University Community

Respondents reported feeling considerably less connected to ESU compared to what they imagined their face-to-face peers felt. Respondents also indicated that they would donate money to the university and join the alumni association at a low level.

When respondents were again divided into groups of those who experienced some face-to-face instruction versus those who were taking the IDT program entirely online, the same gap in reported community appeared (see Figure 5). Face-to-face students reported feeling notably more connected to ESU than online-only respondents. Face-to-face students were far more likely to own ESU clothing and know the name of the ESU president. Face-to-face students also indicated they would be more likely than their online-only counterparts to donate money to the university or join the alumni association.

The one area where online-only students reported greater connection to the university was in university services. Online-only students relied more heavily on ESU services and Buzzin.

Figure 5

Figure 5. Learner Perceptions of University Community, Online Only vs. Some Face-to-Face

General comments regarding ESU community again reinforced the disconnect respondents expressed in the rest of the survey. While students were both complimentary and not so complimentary of ESU in their comments, none described a rich connection to the ESU community. As one respondent wrote:

“Online students are not at all involved with the university community, the reason [being] there’s not much activity going on for us.”

Interpreting the Results

There are limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from these results. It needs to be recognized that there is enormous variety in how online graduate programs are socially structured and how they are technologically delivered. For example, the ESU IDT online program delivers much of its online materials textually through e-mail and Blackboard. It has a regional student population with the caveat that a number of students residing near campus in Emporia, Kansas, are actually international students. This kind of variety means the results for the online ESU IDT program vary in their applicability to other online graduate programs.

Additionally, the respondent population should be critically evaluated. How representative are the 73 survey respondents of the ESU IDT learning community as a whole? Conclusions about non-student community members can’t be drawn because only students were asked to complete the survey.

Earlier we noted that online learning has, in part, attracted learners who prefer increased isolation from the learning community. Were these learners more or less likely to respond to the survey e-mail request? Did learners craving community over- or under-represent themselves in the survey population?

Keeping these limitations in mind, there does appear to be a low level of university and departmental community in the ESU IDT online program. Comparisons between online-only students and those experiencing some face-to-face classroom time indicate the online mode of delivery is partly responsible for this lower sense of community. It appears that face-to-face interactions generate departmental and university community in a way that doesn’t automatically occur when learners interact only online.

The low level of community found outside ESU IDT classrooms resembles the low level of community that research has found in online classrooms. It makes sense that university and departmental community conveyed through the same online medium would have the same deficiencies as an online classroom community. The ESU IDT online program is delivered primarily through individual classrooms, with minimal explicit university and departmental community structures in place. Without explicit community structures compensating for the absence of physical face-to-face interactions at the university and departmental levels, less interaction occurs and thus less community develops outside the classroom. It appears that the additional community structures Moller27 said are needed in the online classroom are also needed in the online department and university.

Why does less university and departmental community occur in the online mode? The online mode of interaction suffers from an absence of physical cues, especially when the delivery is text heavy. When building social, felt aspects of community, this dearth of cues leads to confusion and anxiety for some students, according to Noriko Hara and Rob Kling,28 who also pointed out that online instruction typically suffers from decreased feedback, which can also cause anxiety. In general, they determined that the ambiguousness in human communication is more difficult to resolve in written communication.

Lawrence Beard, Cynthia Harper, and Gena Riley29 compared online instruction to face-to-face instruction and found what they called an interaction problem: Online students reported a decreased ability to interact with other students in their classes. This aligns with Brown’s finding that it takes online students longer to get to know each other.30

Online students are separated by distance, and the online mode of interaction attempts to remove this distance. Research indicates that without putting explicit community structures in place, online education does not entirely succeed in removing this distance. Separation has a tendency to reduce the sense of community, giving rise to feelings of disconnection, isolation, distraction, and lack of personal attention, which could affect students’ success.31

Issues When Building University and Departmental Community

Before considering community building solutions, it is essential to recognize that community isn’t free. Interactions have time and resource costs. That many online IDT students seem content with their low sense of IDT community likely comes from the fact that they save energy by not having to tend to this community. This energy savings is often cited as a strength of online learning, making it tempting to treat the online mode’s freedom from time and space constraints as sacred cows that must be preserved at all costs. Education, though, has long asked students to endure costs, typically in the form of time, money, and personal liberties, for the sake of learning. Where community increases learning, its costs should be embraced.

Some survey comments suggested it was the student’s obligation to build his or her own IDT and ESU community. This is true in as much as all members of a community are responsible for its well being. On the other hand, this laissez-faire approach leads to the low levels of community outside the classroom identified in the survey results. Hoping that a group of motivated students will become inspired to build a rich interactive community does not make it likely to happen. The same is true for faculty and staff. Without explicitly adding community structures in the online world, a department or university will find its members less likely to spontaneously organize and fulfill their departmental or university community needs. This is a structural problem with the online mode of delivery, not a character problem — the mode of delivery needs strengthening.

Not every online student wants to participate in a highly interactive classroom community.32 The same is likely true of departmental and university community. Differing desires to participate in community can be found in all modes of interaction delivery. The online mode tends to be more challenging for extroverts and visual learners who struggle with feelings of isolation in learning online.33

If the ultimate goal of nurturing community is to promote learning, then it would be unwise to force community on those who don’t desire it and who might learn less or stop learning because of it.34 Optional community interactions or interactions delivered via multiple delivery modes offer ways to build IDT or ESU community that work for all community members.

It is also worth noting that when a student says he or she does not want to participate in community, often that means the student does not want to interact with other students. LaPointe and Reisetter35 (2008) indicated that almost all online students crave more interaction with their professors. Many students do not wish to avoid all community participation, just certain kinds of participation.

Some survey comments asserted that online education, by its nature, involves reduced community and that students must accept this. Every mode of instructional delivery has different properties. LaPointe and Reisetter36 noted that online learning currently delivers community less ably than other delivery modes. Is the solution to recruit learners who have a preference for reduced community, or should the online mode of delivery be supplemented to deliver richer community? Should students adapt to the limits of the instruction, or should the instruction expand to meet the needs of a diverse student population?

One need only look at the explosion of online learning to realize that it is no longer a form of instruction used only in isolated situations with specialty student groups. All types of students now encounter online learning. Often, online learning is the only mode of instruction available. It is evident that the mode of instruction must change to meet the needs of all students and not just one type of student. Instead of telling students they should cope with reduced departmental and university community, higher education needs to provide richer departmental and university communities to those who desire and would benefit from participation in them.

Many departmental and university community responsibilities are currently attached to the classroom. For example, while the IDT department does host a web page listing faculty and staff profiles, ESU and IDT do not host similar pages listing their students. As a result, each online class typically spends the first week having classmates post personal biographies on a class website. As long as the class website exists, students can use the cues from these bios as they interact with one another. When the class website goes offline at the end of the semester, though, the bios and the ability to use them in interactions also disappear. All departmental community members should have persistent social presence information attached to the department. In this way they can maintain and grow departmental relationships before a class ever begins and after a class has ended. This approach would allow classes to spend community-building currency on actively engaging the biographical information instead of spending it on the repetitive task of rebuilding each student’s biography at the start of every class.37

Earlier, we stated that no one community subgroup is responsible for building a community. While all community members do have a role to play in community building, it’s clear that not all roles are created equal when it comes to building an online learning community. Online students have identified instructors modeling participation as the most important factor in building online community.38 Faculty need to model social presence in order to help spawn community development.39 These truths about the online classroom are likely true for departmental and university community as well. Publishing a social website will not by itself spawn a vibrant community.40 Continued instructor presence is the engine that will drive departmental community.

In online learning, community passes through a technology filter. The more time students spend trying to understand and navigate this filter, the less time they spend engaging content and building community. Newer students with the greatest community needs will have less time to tend to these needs because they must first figure out how to use the technology. Even expert technology users will be distracted by this barrier,41 which exists not just for classroom communities but also for departmental and university communities.

Technology training, which interrupts community development and learning, should be moved out of the classroom and attached to the department or university. Department-sponsored technology training sessions held at the start of a school year, for example, would not only afford faculty and students a chance to experiment with technology crucial to online delivery but also serve a number of other departmental functions. Treated less seriously than a class, an orientation session would also promote socializing. Veteran students could be asked to instruct the sessions, giving them practice in providing community support to others. A great deal of available technology goes unused because faculty members don’t know how to operate the tools or don’t see their usefulness. Orientations could address these faculty issues as well and result in more tools being used more efficiently throughout the curriculum.

A technology orientation session can indirectly meet community socializing needs, and the opposite is true as well: A community orientation session could indirectly address technology needs. For example, an online matriculation ceremony could also help faculty and students become more comfortable with, for example, video conferencing software. Online departmental or university events outside the classroom reduce technology barriers and community barriers that currently burden most online classrooms.

“Offering the convenience of fully online courses without the complete loss of face-to-face contact may be adequate to nurture a strong sense of community in students who would feel isolated in a fully online course.”42 Just because a program is delivered online doesn’t mean that face-to-face interactions can’t still be leveraged. In the case of the IDT program, most faculty and staff deliver online content from the brick-and-mortar ESU campus. Faculty, staff, and nearby students can physically gather and hold meetings, lectures, brown bag lunches, etc., while online community members attend these events virtually.


In the online learning world it is easy to become so preoccupied by technology that technology solutions are mistaken for educational solutions. Long-term improvements in online departmental and university communities require an educational approach that recognizes the reduced delivery of community in the online world, just as research has shown a reduction of community inside the online classroom. The educational approach should focus on supplementing the limitations of online learning with increased interactions that convey both feelings and ideas.

The study reported here indicates that online graduate students feel less connected to their departments and university than face-to-face students and that a small amount of face-to-face interaction noticeably strengthens this connection. Well-studied classrooms (both online and face-to-face) show that when students feel connected to a learning community, they demonstrate improved learning, and when students feel estranged from their learning communities, learning outcomes are negatively affected. Future research is needed to see if community outside the classroom affects learning outcomes in a similar fashion.

  1. Leslie Moller, “Designing Communities of Learners for Asynchronous Distance Education,” Educational Technology Research and Development, vol. 46, no. 4 (1998), pp. 115–122.
  2. Ruth E. Brown, “The Process of Community-Building in Distance Learning Classes,” Journal for Asynchronous Learning Networks, vol. 5, no. 2 (September 2001), p. 18–35.
  3. Rupert Wegerif, “The Social Dimension of Asynchronous Learning Networks,” Journal for Asynchronous Learning Networks, vol. 2, no. 1 (1998), p. 34–49.
  4. Alfred P. Rovai, “Building Sense of Community at a Distance,” International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol. 3, no. 1 (April 2002).
  5. Alfred P. Rovai, Mervyn J. Wighting, and Robert Lucking, “The Classroom and School Community Inventory: Development, Refinement, and Validation of a Self-Report Measure for Educational Research,” The Internet and Higher Education, vol. 7, no. 4 (2004), pp. 263–280.
  6. Lev S. Vygotsky and Michael Cole, Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978).
  7. Rovai, “Building Sense of Community at a Distance.”
  8. Terry Anderson, Liam Rourke, D. Randy Garrison, and Walter Archer, “Assessing Teaching Presence in a Computer Conferencing Context,” Journal for Asynchronous Learning Networks, vol. 5, no. 2 (September 2001), pp. 1–17.
  9. Brown, “The Process of Community-Building in Distance Learning Classes.”
  10. C. Chapman, L. Ramondt, and G. Smiley, “Strong Community, Deep Learning: Exploring the Link,” Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol. 42, no. 3 (2005), pp. 217–230.
  11. D. R. Garrison, T. Anderson, and W. Archer, “Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education,” The Internet and Higher Education, vol. 2, no. 2 (1999), pp. 87–105.
  12. Alfred P. Rovai, “Building Classroom Community at a Distance: A Case Study,” Educational Technology Research and Development, vol. 49, no. 4 (2001), p. 33–48.
  13. Jennifer C. Richardson and Karen Swan, “Examining Social Presence in Online Courses in Relation to Students’ Perceived Learning and Satisfaction,” Journal for Asynchronous Learning Networks, vol. 7, no. 1 (February 2003), pp. 68–88.
  14. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, “Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment.”
  15. Moller, “Designing Communities of Learners for Asynchronous Distance Education.”
  16. Jim Henry and Jeff Meadows, “An Absolutely Riveting Online Course: Nine Principles for Excellence in Web-Based Teaching,” Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, vol. 34, no. 1 (Winter 2008), see paragraph 27.
  17. Alfred P. Rovai and Hope Jordan, “Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A Comparative Analysis with Traditional and Fully Online Graduate Courses,” International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol. 5, no. 2 (August 2004), pp. 1–13.
  18. Murray R. Millson and David Wilemon, “Educational Quality Correlates of Online Graduate Management Education,” Journal of Distance Education, vol. 22, no. 3 (2008), pp. 1–18.
  19. Terry Anderson and Fathi Elloumi, eds., Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2 ed. (Athabasca: Athabasca University, 2004).
  20. Joanne M. McInnerney and Tim S. Roberts, “Online Learning: Social Interaction and the Creation of a Sense of Community,” Journal of Educational Technology and Society, vol. 7, no. 3 (2004), pp. 73–81.
  21. Joyce Lee, Marty Bray, JoAnn Carter-Wells, Barbara Glaeser, Karen Ivers, and Chris Street, “Discovering the Meaning of Community in an Online Master’s Degree Program,” Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 2004.
  22. Brown, “The Process of Community-Building in Distance Learning Classes.”
  23. Gerald Graff, “It’s Time to End ‘Courseocentrism,’” Inside Higher Ed, January 13, 2009.
  24. Anderson et al., “Assessing Teaching Presence.”
  25. Ibid.
  26. Moller, “Designing Communities of Learners for Asynchronous Distance Education.”
  27. Ibid.
  28. Noriko Hara and Rob Kling, “Students’ Frustrations with a Web-Based Distance Education Course,” First Monday, vol. 4, no. 12 (December 1999).
  29. Lawrence A. Beard, Cynthia Harper, and Gena Riley, “Online Versus On-Campus Instruction: Student Attitudes & Perceptions,” TechTrends, vol. 48 no. 6 (2004), pp. 29–31.
  30. Brown, “The Process of Community-Building in Distance Learning Classes.”
  31. Rovai, “Building Sense of Community at a Distance.”
  32. R. P. Githens, “Understanding Interpersonal Interaction in an Online Professional Development Course,” Human Resource Development Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 2 (2007), pp. 253–274.
  33. M. V. P. Cereijo, J. Young, and R. W. Wilhelm, “Factors Facilitating Student Participation in Asynchronous Web-Based Courses,” Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, vol. 18 (2001), pp. 32–39.
  34. Anderson and Elloumi, Theory and Practice of Online Learning.
  35. Loralee LaPointe and Marcy Reisetter, “Belonging Online: Students’ Perceptions of the Value and Efficacy of an Online Learning Community,” International Journal on E-Learning, vol. 7, no. 4 (2008), pp. 641–665.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Eileen McElrath and Kate McDowell, “Pedagogical Strategies for Building Community in Graduate-Level Distance Education Courses,” Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, vol. 4, no. 1 (March 2008), pp. 117–127.
  38. Pam Vesely, Lisa Bloom, and John Sherlock, “Key Elements of Building Online Community: Comparing Faculty and Student Perceptions,” Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, vol. 3, no. 3 (2007), pp. 234–246.
  39. Githens, “Understanding Interpersonal Interaction.”
  40. See Aaron Sumner’s blog on the website IDT at Emporia State University, 2008.
  41. Brown, “The Process of Community-Building in Distance Learning Classes.”
  42. Rovai and Jordan, “Blended Learning and Sense of Community.”