A Complete Guide to Building Your Online Learning Community

A Complete Guide to Building Your Online Learning Community

A Complete Guide to Building Your Online Learning Community

  • EzyCourse Team

  • 26 May 2024

  • 8 minutes

Looking for a way to improve the learning experience for your students? In this article, we will tell you the tricks to build a strong learning community. 

Online courses have become very popular in this super-growing era. As a result, online learning management platforms are becoming competitive to grab the attention of course creators. The platforms offer more and more productive and useful features, which can help with the learning path for the users. One of these key features is community building. 

A community is all about collaboration, connection, engagement, and support among the members. Around 86% of students think that a learning community can improve their online learning experience. Students can post their feedback, problems, and opinions in a community. They can also get responses from peers in the comment section just like social media platforms such as Facebook groups or Discord channels. 

You should start building a community if you have an online learning platform and want to enhance your students’ learning experience. Let’s explore more into it and learn how you can build a community online.

 

What is a Learning Community?

A community is simply a group of people sharing a similar interest to connect and interact with. So in a learning community, a group of students will be present who share the same learning objective. 

Any learning path can have one or two hard slopes in its way. And it is very easy to lose motivation at that time. That is your learning platforms should have options to build online communities like Reddit, Facebook, Discord, etc.   Learning communities make it easier for your students to overcome the hurdles and eventually reach the goal. The human brain works better when we collaborate or connect with other people. That is why the co-learning process is way more effective when it comes to learning a new thing on an online platform.

In learning communities online, students or peers will connect, support, and collaborate by posting, reacting, and commenting. Adding a community will boost the pace of your students’ learning path.


How Does an Online Community Improve the Student Learning Process?

Online courses and learning are very convenient and useful. But we know it can also be frustrating sometimes. Approaching a steep learning curve without the help of a physical classroom and peers is difficult, right? However, a professional learning community can make the experience way better. Let's see how.

  • Building connections between students and teachers: Communities build an interactive connection between students and teachers. It motivates the students to engage with their peers and instructors more. The supportive nature of an online learning community boosts enthusiasm and engagement among students. That is why these communities are a great solution to accelerate learning through collaboration and interaction among fellow students. 


  • Enabling co-learning opportunity: Co-learning shares the collective knowledge and experiences of all members within the community. This approach allows for quicker problem-solving, diverse insights, and continuous feedback, which enhances learning efficiency. It broadens the learning experience for all students involved. Students generally achieve better when they are involved in a student community.

  • Developing networks: As members within a community interact and share their learning journeys, they build a network that deepens their educational experience and speeds up their personal and professional growth. New students especially can get plenty of help and support from previous students to overcome the initial hurdle of learning a new skill.

  • Being a source of support and motivation: A community encourages the students to give feedback, post problems, solve others' problems, and share success stories which motivate the members. Students in an online community usually have higher levels of satisfaction with their course than students who are not in the community. Community engaged learning has been proven to be way more effective. Through support, motivation, and collaboration, a community accelerates the learning process for a student.

 

Types of Online Learning Communities

Online learning communities are very diverse. Each community has different goals and purposes. This diversity causes various categories among the communities. They are based on the shared interests and views of students and members.

Let’s dive into some common types of learning communities.

Communities of Similar Interests

These communities bring together individuals who share a common passion or hobby. It can be art, technology, gardening, or photography.

The members can share resources, discuss techniques, and support each other’s growth. Platforms like EzyCourse allow users to create specific channels within their community that promote focused discussions and content sharing based on a more specific interest. 


Professional Learning Communities

Another common type of learning community is the professional learning community. These communities focus on bringing people of a specific profession or career together.

The main purposes of these communities are skill development, career development, training, and networking. They are valuable for sharing best practices, finding mentorship, and staying updated with industry trends. An example of such a community is web developers who can share their own work, give suggestions, and build a network among themselves to help each other grow.

Academic Communities

Academic communities provide students with resources like study materials, study groups, and forums for discussing coursework and research.

These communities are very helpful for online learning and courses. Without a physical classroom, students can easily feel disconnected. These communities help to keep students motivated and focused on completing their goals. EzyCourse is a great platform to build such communities for your students. 

 

Action-based Learning Communities

Action-based learning communities are usually very dynamic. They are groups formed by individuals who share a commitment to a common cause and focus on activities that promote or advance this cause.

Members of these communities engage in practical tasks such as volunteering campaigns, creating educational resources, and conducting fundraising events. By participating in these activities, members not only learn about the cause but also actively contribute to it. These communities are powerful platforms for driving change and educating participants through real-world involvement.

Location-based Communities

Some communities are simply based on the location of the members. These communities can also share similar interests and benefit from the geographical similarities of the users.

Key Objectives of the Learning Community

We have already discussed different types of learning communities. Every community has its own set of goals and regulations. Meanwhile, there are some general objectives that every community should follow. Maintaining these primary elements makes it certain that the community remains pleasant and beneficial for its members.

Let’s learn about the three primary objectives of a learning community:

1.    Co-learning

This is the main reason why collaborative learning exists. Students should be allowed to share their learning process and feedback within a community. This process enables the opportunity to enhance the learning experience effectively.  The activities that ensure a strong co-learning experience are: 

  • Sharing relevant resources within the network

  • Posting problems and building solutions to the problems together

  • Discussions

  • Reviewing other's work

  • Providing constructive criticism and feedback

 

2.    Networking

In a community, members get the exclusive opportunity to network with peers who have similar interests. Communities connect people. Members can make their learning experience better through collaboration and open communication.

They can talk with each other about relevant studies, course work, or even their personal interests. Communities are supposed to be fun. Members can share their own ideas, opinions, personal hobbies, and whatnot! The digital space should be converted into a social space for the members.

Networking can help the members with their learning as well as their careers. And as a bonus, they can make some friends too. Don’t forget, that students might come to your platform for the content, but they stay for the community.

 

3.    Community Support

I am sure you have experienced the initial challenges of learning any new skill. Every learning path has some steep slopes and pitfalls, which are very easy to fall into. Unfortunately, significant numbers of students give up when they find it challenging to find any solution.

That is where the support is most needed. One of the primary objectives of professional learning communities is to provide technical support and encouragement for the students. Through a community, members can motivate others and seek solutions for their problems.

In addition to that, experts or instructors are also able to provide support to the members when needed. It expands the dimension of their learning, enabling a strong foundation of knowledge. Through community support, the learning experience becomes much easier.

How Can you Build a Successful Online Learning Community?

Engaging with an effective online learning community can make the learning experience for a student smooth and easy. Every type of community might have different objectives and purposes. You can establish a successful community through strategic planning and an understanding of the community's needs. Here are some general heads-up for you:

 

Define clear objectives and regulations: This is one of the most important parts of building a community. You need to clearly define the purpose and goals of the community to guide all activities and interactions. Make regulations where necessary. These primary steps will help keep the community on the right track.

Select the Right Platform to Build Your Learning Community: Choose a platform that offers all the necessary tools for communication, collaboration, and content sharing for your community. Such as: if you use the LMS platform EzyCourse, you can build and regulate a learning community within it very easily.

Ensure the presence of the instructors: Regularly answering questions or giving updates is very important for the instructors and coordinators in a community. It makes the students feel more welcome in the forum. The presence of the instructors in a community encourages the members to interact and be active. It gives the students a sense of comfort and reliability. When the students post more about their problem 

Keep members engaged: Engagement and participation by the members are the keys to a community’s success. Try to organize online events, discussions, and collaborative projects to maintain active participation and interest.

Cultivate a supportive environment: One of the main purposes of a student online community is to get direct help from peers and instructors along the learning path. Members should feel comfortable and confident asking for help from the community whenever they are stuck with something.

Initiating Q&A sessions, and threads might boost their enthusiasm to ask questions and engage with the community more effectively.


 

The Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) Model: A Fundamental Framework

Online Learning Community Models can significantly boost capacity development. But why should you believe my blank words? Wait, hold on! Let me present you with the research work from the Department of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).

In their published journal, they showed the need for an online learning community to achieve higher levels of competency. They also developed a Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) Model to promote an engaging, automated online learning community with the help of digital technologies.

So, what does this model tell us? FOLC focuses on balancing the members’ social presence (SP) and cognitive presence (CP) within the community. It promotes collaborative and participatory learning for better efficiency. The model emphasizes utilizing digital media tools for better networking and collaboration among the members of a community.

The Fully Online Learning Community Model. Now, what is social and cognitive presence? Let’s find out.

 

Social Presence

Social presence (SP) refers to a member’s ability to represent themselves both socially and emotionally within a community. This presence can lie in their interactions, communication, and emotional expressions.

It is important to show your personality and be familiar with the other members when you join a community. This initial effort brings you closer and allows for meaningful connections later. When the community is fully online, it can be a bit challenging to project your true self and full potential. You can overcome the challenge with the help of digital communication technologies such as conference calling apps, messaging apps, and social media.

 

Cognitive Presence

The other element of a successful learning community is the cognitive presence (CP) of the users. Cognitive presence refers to a member’s ability to understand the courses or instructions.

CP is primarily based on Dewey's Practical Inquiry model, focusing on triggering events, exploration, integration, and solution phases. This is more like the technical presence of a user. It boosts critical thinking and helps with knowledge building.

Balancing the cognitive presence with the social presence of a member is the keynote for building an online learning community that utilizes a digital space for collaborative learning.

 

Primary Tools Used by the FOLC Model

If you want to build an effective online learning community, some tools will be required by the FOLC model. These tools are excellent at improving communication and keeping members in touch with others.

Essential tools to build a learning community online include:

  • Audio/video conferencing software or browser-based audio/video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, etc. With the help of these digital conferencing tools, members can build a sense of connectivity among themselves, serving the purpose of community engaged learning.

  • Open education resources (OER) or other platforms based on shareability that promote collaborative work. Examples include Microsoft SharePoint, Google Docs, and Google Colab.

  • Social media platforms such as Facebook, which allow for a better interactive community engagement.  

  • Messaging apps for communication and networking among the members. Such as WhatsApp and Telegram.

  • An online learning platform that offers the necessary tools and features to build an independent community such as EzyCourse, Mighty Networks, Thinkific, etc. 

By the way, did you know that EzyCourse offers a dedicated social media-styled community with posting, reacting, and chatting features? Which tick all the boxes to make your community effective.

A Checklist of Features to Look For in An Online Community-building Platform

While selecting an online learning community-building platform, it’s essential to check the features to build more student engagement:  

  1. Elegant User Interface

  2. Channels/ Discussion Threads

  3. Multiple Post Options

  4. Comment Options

  5. Share Options

  6. Chat Tools

  7. Multiple Education and Learning Tools

Overall, this is a generalized feature requirement for a learning community online. Let’s see what the community platforms have to offer. 

Top Online Learning Community Building Platforms

Okay, now you have some primary ideas about building a successful learning community. But on which platform should you build it? We have accumulated some of the best options available for you.

Our top five online community builder platforms are:

1. EzyCourse 

2. Thinkific 

3. Mighty Networks 

4. New Zenler  

5. EducateMe 

Now, let’s dive into a detailed description of these awesome platforms and compare their pros and cons.

 

1. EzyCourse 

If you are looking for an all-around LMS platform with features to build awesome communities, then EzyCourse is perfect for you. The platform has already achieved the trust of a wide range of online creators.

It allows the members to create posts, add channels, chat in private or in groups instantly, create polls, push notifications, etc. You can boost the engagement of your community using these Facebook-like features. 

If your students have any trouble with their learning, they can just post their problems and wait for someone to help them with the solution in the comment section. Or maybe they found some interesting news. They can easily share with their peers using shareable links. You can also get your students' opinions on something by creating a poll or even students can create a poll if needed. Interaction with the posts is also easier by using different reactions and comments.  

You will absolutely love it when you view the simple yet efficient user interface of an EzyCourse community. It supports text, photo, video, file, text background, and other options to make your post more interactive. The communities can be set to a certain privacy setting where the visibility of the community is either private, hidden, public, or restricted.

Another exciting part of the EzyCourse community is, that you can offer your community on a mobile app. Using the EzyCourse mobile app, your students can interact like any other social media app. 

EzyCourse only costs $35/month for the basic plan. All in all, you can rely on EzyCourse as one of the best platforms for creating an online learning community.

 

2. New Zenler 

New Zenler is an all-in-one course platform that offers all the tools you need to create and market your online course. The platform offers basic community features as well.

The platform provides necessary course creation tools, marketing funnels, email automation, quizzes and surveys, and dedicated communities. The social network-style Zenler community is very easy to use. An intuitive user interface, discussions, likes and reactions, commenting, and sharing options make the community more engaging and fun. You can set up a community specifically for course-oriented interactions or for the entire site.

While the options available are convenient to use, the Zenler communities are missing some of the key features. It does not offer to create channels or spaces, events or member directories. So, it is not possible to create fully independent communities with several channels focused on specific topics.

The pricing of Zenler is not that competitive either. The pro plan costs $67/month, and the premium one costs $167/month. Overall, it is a decent platform for creating a learning community. 

Also Read: New Zenler Community: Should You Use It In 2024?

 

3. Thinkific 

Our next pick for building an online learning community is Thinkific. This is another great LMS that supports community-building features. Using the platform, you can create and sell online courses with the option to include digital media such as images and videos.

You can personalize your courses to match your needs and tastes. Members can view and interact with each other’s posts and collaborate. But unfortunately, the platform doesn’t have any email marketing channels or chat options for customer support.

Thinkific is very straightforward and easy to use, and it offers excellent video production quality. However, the platform lacks unlimited storage options and does not allow you to create unlimited communities. While you can use the platform for free, you are limited to creating only one free course.

The basic plan costs $49/month, while the Start and Grow plan costs $99/month and $199/month, respectively. It is obviously a considerable option with packs of cool features for a learning community.

 Also Read: Thinkific Community vs. EzyCourse Community

4. Mighty Networks 

As the name suggests, our number four pick promotes strong (or as they say, “mighty”) networking among the users. Seriously though, Mighty Networks  is the no-1 ranked community platform on G2. So inarguably, it is one of the best online community platforms to build your learning community.

The platform offers plenty of options for you. You can design your website, create, and sell online courses, and build a community. Features like activity feeds, profiles of the members, and group or private chat options boost engagement and networking among the students.  

The pricing of might networks starts at $119/month for Courses and $219/month for Business plans. In summary, it is obviously a viable option if you want to boost community engaged learning.

 

5. EducateMe

 

For our last recommendation, we chose a community-based learning platform which is EducateMe. The platform can help you to create courses and even launch online schools.

EducateMe provides active and engaging learning sessions by integrating with video conferencing apps like Zoom and Jitsi. Recording and documenting of the live sessions is also available. Learners can react and share their feedback about a course.

However, the community does not provide a social network-like experience. Creating open discussions, polls, and threads is not possible on this platform. Moreover, the platform lacks a mobile app.

The pricing also put the platform at a disadvantage compared to its competitors. The Advanced plan starts at $100/month, while the Pro plan starts at $200/month.

 

Final Words

An online learning community provides students with an environment where they can engage and collaborate with each other. As a result, the overall experience becomes better and enhanced. Platforms like EzyCourse offer useful and attractive features that boost the enthusiasm and interaction of the students.

If you are trying to advance the learning experience of your students, creating some relevant community can be of great value. So, don’t wait up! Join an awesome platform like EzyCourse and create as many communities as you need. 

Then why wait to start building your online community now?