8 Tips To Build An Online Learning Community
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How To Build An Online Learning Community

We all enjoy being part of a community. It's a basic human characteristic. However, in eLearning environments it's difficult to get that personal connection we crave. The good news is that you can still give your online learners that sense of belonging, regardless of their location, background, or personal goals. Here are 8 tips for building an online learning community that honors every online learner and gives them the support they need.

1. Know Your Online Learners' Needs

Learners are more likely to participate in your online learning community if it offers them real value. They're there to get specific information and to build skills. Therefore, audience research is a crucial part of the process. Before you can create an online learning community that meets their needs, you have to know what those needs are. Conduct surveys, polls, interviews, and online pre-assessments to identify their goals and expectations. The trick to this is dividing your online learners into groups and then creating personas for each. For example, more experienced online learners have different needs than newcomers. It's impossible to please everybody, but you can come close by collecting online learner feedback.

2. Set Some Netiquette Rules And Enforce Them

Anytime you get a group of people in one place, even if it’s a virtual place, you are bound to have differences of opinion. That doesn't mean that these differences have to turn into conflicts, especially if you create netiquette rules for online discussions. Indicate how online learners are expected to participate, which online platforms they can use, and which behaviors aren't allowed. For example, they should respect the thoughts and opinions of others instead of leaving disparaging comments. More importantly, specify how online learners should resolve conflicts that arise in the online learning community and how violations will be handled. What are the repercussions for offensive behavior? How many strikes lead to an online learning community ban? What support resources are available to your members?

3. Pick The Right Online Collaboration Platform

There are plenty of online collaboration platforms to choose from, but only a select few are going to meet your needs. Not to mention, you probably don't have the time or resources to utilize multiple online collaboration tools at once. Social media sites, blogs, online forums, and Project Management tools are just a few of the options. And even these have sub-categories that you need to consider. Many social media platforms offer closed groups and pages. Think about the level of collaboration your online learners require and which eLearning activities you'll integrate. For example, blogging is usually the ideal choice if you're using writing prompts to fuel the online discussion. While Facebook and Twitter are great for sharing quick links and taking polls. The key is to make your online learners comfortable by using a tool they're already familiar with. However, it should still satisfy the learning requirements.

4. Cultivate A Personal Connection

Speaking of comfort, building a personal connection is crucial in an online learning community. Every member of your group has their own personality, experiences, and preferences. They are taking the time out of their busy day to participate in the online learning community. As such, you should take the time to get to know them, and encourage their peers to do the same. Set up an introduction board where everyone can break the ice and share their personal interests and ideas. Invite online learners to reply to comments and interact with their peers in a meaningful way.

5. Appoint Online Learning Community Leaders

Online learning community leaders maintain order and motivate the other members of the group. Thus, they must be passionate about the topic and willing to support others. These individuals can also monitor the online discussions to ensure that everything is on track. For example, they're able to resolve conflicts by privately messaging the members involved and calming the situation. Becoming a leader should be voluntary, as it does take time, dedication, and commitment. In addition, host regular meetings to keep the online learners informed and get their honest feedback.

6. Create A Central Hub

You need a place where everyone can get the latest news and access your online learning community resources. An eLearning blog, forum, or website serves as a central hub for your online learning community. Rather than being dispersed all over the internet, they can gather in one centralized location and share their thoughts. This is also the place to post your support contacts, as well as links to all of your online platforms.

7. Offer Shareable eLearning Content To Expand Your Online Learning Community

One of the most effective ways to grow online learning communities is sharing valuable information, such as tips and online resources. For example, post a 3-minute task tutorial video and encourage online learners to share it with their personal learning network. Most video sharing sites feature social media sharing buttons that make the process quick and convenient. Include links to your online learning community page in all of your eLearning articles and blog posts. Another option is offering a free eBook or report that directs readers to your online forum and blog.

8. Develop Sub-Communities

Some online learners may be hesitant to participate in online discussions or share resources if there are too many members. This is one of the key reasons why you should develop sub-communities. These smaller groups provide a more personalized experience and connect like-minded online learners. For example, every member of your closed Facebook group is enrolled in your Management course. Thus, they have similar goals and objectives. Sub-communities also make it easier to target your marketing efforts. When you're ready to launch your new eLearning course or product, you know where to find your niche audience.

The secret to growing a successful online learning community is creating an effective framework. Plan ahead and use these 8 tips to lay the foundation for mutual respect, understanding, and knowledge sharing.

Are you looking for tips to support your online learning community? Read the article 7 Tips To Support Online Learning Communities to discover how to give your online learners the structure, support, and inspiration they need to improve their performance.

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