Creating and Sustaining Communities of Learning within Distance Learning Environments: Focusing upon Making Connections, Creating Communities of Learning, and Responsibilities

By Caroline M. Crawford and Ruth Gannon Cook.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Over the past fifteen year period, distance learning environments have developed from the simplistic presentation of textual and basic graphic representations of knowledge towards a flourishing focus and enhancement of the learning environment, within which real learning and understanding has the potential to successfully occur. As such, creating and sustaining communities of learning within distance learning environments has become central to the success of distance learning. A focus upon perceived and real interactive activities opens itself towards a more enhanced consideration towards making connections, creating communities of learning, and the inevitable responsibilities that are inherent within online communities of learning. Not only is the design and development of a learning environment of import, with a focus upon semiotics and metaphorical representation of the subject matter, but also of direct impact towards the success of the learner is the focus upon developing connections between the distance learner and the learning colleagues, the course instructor, the information within the learning environment, and the larger professional and personal social community as a whole. As such, the design and development of the distance learning environment is of significant import towards the success of the learner, as well as the implementation skills of the course instructor within the distance learning environment. Components of self-regulation, chunking of information, and cognitive load directly impact the success of the learner within an instructional environment, but what of the social aspects related to learner engagement and the need to develop a perception of the learner as an integral component within the learning environment community? The maturing of distance learning has given way to an emerging understanding of the importance of creating and sustaining communities of learning within distance learning environments is not only of theoretical and philosophical interest, but is now an integral consideration within distance learning.

Keywords: Distance Learning, Web-based Learning, Web-enhanced Learning, Communities of Learning, Learning Communities, Self-Regulation, Cognitive Load, Higher Order Thinking Skills, Communication, Interactive Activities, Semiotics, Information Chunking, Information Age, Conceptual Age, Knowledge Economy

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp.179-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 834.812KB).

Dr. Caroline M. Crawford

Associate Professor, Instructional Technology, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA

Caroline M. Crawford, Ed.D., is an Associate Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake in Houston, Texas, USA. At this point in Dr. Crawford’s professional career, her main areas of interest focus upon communities of learning and the appropriate and successful integration of technologies into the learning environment.

Ruth Gannon Cook

Assistant Professor, School for New Learning, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Ruth Gannon Cook, Ed.D.: Ruth received her Ed.D. from the University of Houston, College of Education, Curriculum & ruction with a major instructional Technology (2003). She also received a Certificate for Advanced Studies from the Queens College, Cambridge, United Kingdom with an emphasis in Change Diffusion and Technology Integration. Her M.S. Ed. in Educational Administration and B. A. in Business are both from Loyola University, New Orleans. She has worked for the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and the University of Houston for eight years, and DePaul University in the School for New Learning as an Assistant Professor for the last five years.

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