Building and Sustaining the Online Course’s Learning Community
Having taken several FLO workshops, we talk about the importance of facilitators building the online course learning community. This topic has intrigued me for some time, so this term, I decided to shadow the Fall FLO Fundamentals workshop while at the same time taking two hybrid online courses for the first time as a student. Both teachers started with the standard, “Post your introduction and reply to three to five other students’ introduction posts”. But, what happens after this? How do we maintain and sustain this newly-forming online community for a term in classes with about 36 students?
This is the question, I would like to explore. Two weeks after my online classes started, I experienced a personal medical situation, which resulted in me not being able to be involved in my online courses at all, although I did keep looking at my course shells. After the second week, I felt bad being a teacher and not participating, especially in the group work; I felt like withdrawing. Nobody even noticed I was not participating online, and I didn’t want to let on that I was not capable, so I didn’t email anyone, either. However, I started the team project because I didn’t want to let my team down, but by now, I even started avoiding looking at my course shell. “Who cares anyway? I should just withdraw.” Finally, the day before the suggested project due date, I received an email from a team member asking about my contribution. I replied back saying I would look over the project and add my part to it the next day, and I thanked the emailer for the nudge. Another team member replied to my email with a blast highlighted in red saying it wasn’t a nudge, insinuating where was my contribution, and asking what happened to me. I felt attacked, so I replied back, “health, work, and family”… and again, considered withdrawing.
Fortunately, we had a F2F class after the 4th week, so I showed up, not sure what to expect or how I would feel. The teacher started the class by discussing problems that could arise in online team work. She emphasized suggested due dates were only a guideline, and if the team or a team member needed more time, for whatever reason, the team could agree to submit at a later date. Because of what the teacher said, I stayed for the class, and I stayed in the course.
During the time I was offline with my courses, I was also shadowing the FLO Fundamentals workshop. I didn’t participate in any of the activities, but I was lifted up and encouraged by the numerous supportive and positive ongoing posts between the two FLO facilitators and the participants, between the weekly team participants and their FLO facilitator, and among the team members as they planned their week.
experience, I know FLO may be seen as the “ideal” world, and somehow, I wanted
this ideal FLO community-building injected into my “real” world online courses.
So, how can this happen? What can we do
as facilitators to sustain and maintain the online community? During this
offline time, just one email checking in with me would have helped bring me
back sooner. So, here I am taking this Micro FLO about community building
During my offline experience, I kept thinking about what would help me if I were a student. I kept going back to the Micro FLO Rubrics workshop, when I designed a rubric, which could be used throughout the course specifically to help students reflect on their learning. So, my goal for this Micro FLO workshop is to adapt this rubric to use in online courses for building and sustaining online communities. This is a work in progress, so all comments and suggestions will be gratefully appreciated.
Out of confusion comes clarity.