JOURNAL ARTICLE

Nursing student perceptions of community in online learning

Susan Gallagher-Lepak, Janet Reilly, Cheryl M Killion
Contemporary Nurse 2009, 32 (1-2): 133-46
19697984
Nursing faculty need to understand the unique aspects of online learning environments and develop new pedagogies for teaching in the virtual classroom. The concept of community is important in online learning and a strong sense of community can enhance student engagement and improve learning outcomes in online courses. Student perceptions of community in online learning environments were explored in this study. Five focus group sessions were held and online nursing students were asked to give examples of experiences related to sense of community. Fifteen major themes emerged: class structure, required participation, teamwork, technology, becoming, commonalities, disconnects, mutual exchange, online etiquette, informal discussions, aloneness, trepidation, unknowns, nonverbal communication and anonymity. Themes sorted into the categories of structural, processual and emotional factors. Theme descriptions show how sense of community can be enhanced and/or diminished in online courses. This study adds depth and detail to the limited body of research on sense of community in distance education in nursing courses.

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