A Performance Approach to Designing and Measuring Community-building Interventions for Online Engineering Students

Powell, Erika, Educational Psychology - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Grimes, Patrice, CISE, University of Virginia
Moore, Stephanie, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The role of community in learning has been examined primarily in the immediate online academic classroom context. However, the communities to which a student belongs extend beyond the immediate online classroom learning context. Learners are part of multiple communities that include peer communities, their academic departments, their university, and, to a larger degree, their professional networks and settings.

This capstone project examined the role and impact of non-academic communities in the online student experience. The purpose of this project was three-fold: (a) to determine which student support services and resources would most likely help connect students to communities outside of the immediate online classroom community, (b) to create a series of interventions that facilitated those connections, and (c) to assess the impact of those interventions within an online community.

Principles of Human Performance Technology Framework and Instructional Design guided the design of the needs assessment and the subsequent interventions. Data sources included site activity on the university’s centrally supported online collaboration and learning environment (UVA Collab), post-event surveys, student attendance, observations of event behavior, a post-study survey, and usage reports from the Center for Engineering Career Development.

Findings from the needs assessment indicated that online students wanted to connect to communities outside of their immediate academic classroom communities, especially those that would connect them to career and professional communities. In this study, students’ attendance, posting activity, and CECD usage data increased over time, indicating that students will participate in non-academic communities when provided the opportunity. Additionally, in this study, event behavior and post-event survey data decreased over time, which suggests that student involvement in non-academic communities is characteristic of self-directed learning environments.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
online community, Communities of Inquiry, self-directed learning, Performance Improvement, Instructional Design, virtual communities, online student support
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