Modeling an Online Learning Community Through Immersion

Author Information
Jennifer Redd
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
San José State University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

San José State University developed an instructional design process to engage faculty members in a learning community during the online course development process. Through the use of synchronous and asynchronous sessions housed in a learning management system, faculty members participated in a learning community with others, who were also developing an online course. The learning community served dual purposes: to provide faculty members with a peer support network and to display and showcase the effectiveness a learning community can have in the online environment.


Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

San José State University’s mission is to enrich the lives of its students, to transmit knowledge to its students along with the necessary skills for applying it in the service of our society, and to expand the base of knowledge through research and scholarship. With a geographic location in Silicon Valley, the demand of technological innovation as it relates to the potential benefits for multicultural and global students define a purpose for the development of high quality online courses. The university supports the use of a learning management system (LMS) for teaching and learning online. Approximately, 55% of the faculty members were using the LMS in Fall 2011 and this process intended to help increase this percentage.

The objective of this practice was to assist faculty members in the design and development of an engaging and interactive online course that enhances the experience of the student learners. In order to encourage faculty members to participate in the development of an online course, a request for proposals was distributed to all faculty members. The request encouraged faculty members from a variety of disciplines and at varying technological competencies to develop or redevelop one of their courses in an online format. The proposed courses would involve the design, development, and eventual delivery of an innovative and engaging online based course utilizing the Desire2Learn learning management system. Selections involved the use of a rubric with a double evaluation of each submission. The areas covered included the following:

·      State the title and number associated with your course.

·      Is this course part of the General Education (GE) program?

·      How many students are typically enrolled in one section of this course?

·      Describe your experience with online courses and instructional technologies as an instructor.

·      Describe your experiences with online courses as a student.

·      Why are you interested in developing your course online?

·      Technology skill level (expert or novice)

·      Do you commit to the requirements of the various phases?

·      Proposal overall sections (strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree)

·      Proposal presentation – organized, logical, and easy to follow (5-point scale poor to excellent)

·      Proposal content – all areas addressed with adequate detail (5-point scale poor to excellent)

·      Course demand (5-point scale not important to very important)

·      Overall rank (5-point scale poor to excellent)

·      Overall quality (5-point scale poor to excellent)

·      Recommendation for participation (yes, no, not sure)

·      Comments

·      All components required were submitted and correctly formatted (including a copy of the proposed syllabus)

The implementation of a faculty learning community in the design and development process was intended to provide faculty members with another tier of support. Cox (2004) explains that a faculty learning community consists of faculty across disciplines that collaborate and actively engage in a curriculum to enhance their current level of knowledge. The development of a community occurs through cooperation and participation toward a common goal (Misanchuk & Anderson, 2001). In this case, the collaboration activities surrounded a particular topic: developing an online course. The use of a learning community allowed for faculty members to have multiple avenues of support: large group, small group, and individual (one-on-one consultations with an instructional designer).
The learning community allowed faculty members the opportunity to discuss with each other on a variety of educationally related topics, such as accessibility, assessment, copyright, and multimedia. The project began with a face-to-face session that provided an introduction and some technical information to all of the participants. Following this session, faculty participants provided a textual introduction to their peers using the online discussion board. The participants where then grouped with a partner of a differing technology skill level (e.g. novice and expert) and provided an audio message that described if in an elevator for 30 seconds, how would you describe your course and your teaching philosophy? Throughout the next four months, participants participated in the online discussions and met via an Elluminate session. Throughout this entire time period, participants regularly met with an instructional designer. Participants had deliverables throughout the design and development process to assist them in the completion of their course. A final component involved the completion of a rubric (remixed version of the California State University, Chico Rubric for Online Instruction) by a peer to provide feedback as to the aspects of the course that were emerging, effective and exemplary (See Appendix A). The conclusion of the project involved a survey and interview where the instructional designer met with the faculty member to discuss his/her experiences.


Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

The goal of the project was to assist faculty members in the development of an effective online course. The development of an effective online course was measured and assessed via multiple tools. Throughout the development process, faculty members completed progress reports to indicate certain deliverables were completed. Also, the learning community provided feedback to one another. Their discussions were captured using the discussion board as well as though a synchronous web-conferencing session. Further data will be gathered related to the effectiveness of the development of the online course and the learning community support through a survey and interview. Providing a supportive community construct to aid faculty members in their own online course construction may have (1) permitted them to feel adequate support and a sense of belonging and (2) exemplified a model with which they might utilize in their own online course developed. 

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

The implementation of a program of this nature allows faculty members access to a peer network of support at they develop a high quality online course. When encouraging faculty participation, it is important to communicate to them they will be part of and have access to a faculty learning community as they design and develop their online course. The faculty learning community is part of a larger project of developing an online course. The learning effectiveness can be measured by the successful completion of the development of an online course. The quality level of this course will be achieved and measured through rubrics, deliverables, and participation in the learning community activities. The scale of a project of this nature is unbounded. This type of project could be run at the department level, college level, or university level.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

The only equipment necessary for this project is a computer with an Internet connection.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The cost of a project can vary. The faculty participants after completion of designing, developing, and teaching the courses were and/or will be compensated with $1500. When recreating or implementing a program of this nature, the cost can vary depending on the budget of the school. The use of a learning community, for example, in a department where multiple courses are going to be put online may not require a monetary incentive, but with help provide an additional tier of support that will be instrumental in increasing the quality of the course developed. Also, encouraging faculty members who are interested in participating and acknowledging up front the support structure they will be provided with will be helpful as they embark together toward the common goal of developing a high quality online course.

References, supporting documents: 

California State University, Chico. (2009). Rubric for online instruction. Retrieved from,

Cox, M. D. (2004). Introduction to faculty learning communities. In M. D. Cox & L. Richlin (Eds.), Building faculty learning communities (pp. 5-23). New Directions for Teaching and Learning: No. 97, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Misanchuk, M., & Anderson, T. (2001). Building community in an online learning environment: Communication, cooperation and collaboration. Retrieved from, 


Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Jennifer Redd
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