Community building in online education
Ehlert, Alycia Marie
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study is to explore the collegiate community that online students experience and the possibilities associated with augmenting student learning by using Second Life in the online classroom. Specifically, I examined how Second Life could be used as a teaching tool to break down the barriers found in distance education, such as students feeling disconnected from their peers and instructors and having lower levels of engagement in online courses, leading to lower retention rates. To explore how students could build a community in their online courses, I incorporated Second Life into an online cultural diversity course offered at a community college in Georgia. Within this course, I required students to participate in social mixers in Second Life, explore the Second Life world using a scavenger hunt and other activities, and keep a journal to reflect on their Second Life experiences. This case study used observation of students, interviews, and document analysis to interpret and understand their perceptions about the usefulness of Second Life as a teaching tool as it relates to building a collegiate community in their online classes. I interviewed participants using a semi-structured interview format, transcribed the digital files of the interviews, and completed member checks with students to check my perceptions of the information gathered during interviews. I also analyzed the journals students kept during the course of the semester. Students indicated that Second Life is a useful tool for creating community, but they did not have the time to devote to it because of their other priorities. Additionally, however, students did not have access to the technology available to allow Second Life to work properly, causing more problems than it is worth for the time being.