Increasing flexibilisation and personalisation of education creates challenges in terms of students’ social connectedness with each other, with the programme and with lecturers. For this reason, a team of researchers and professors from four universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands carried out research into how a sense of community can be created in learning communities. On the basis of a literature review and design-oriented research, we conducted experiments aimed at fostering social connectedness in eight learning communities. These learning communities were in the domains of Nursing, Healthcare and Welfare Teacher Training, Management in Care, Teacher Training, and Nutrition and Dietetics (part-time, full-time and dual programme variants). The above research resulted in this Social connectedness in Online and Blended Learning Communities guide, which consists of two parts. Part one outlines the seven design principles (focused on content, attitude and preconditions) which lecturers can work with in their role as facilitator. The lecturer can apply these design principles to promote social connectedness in online and blended learning communities, including when flexible student paths are involved. These design principles are supported by practical IT tools and working methods and are widely applicable. The design principles involved are: A. Getting to know each other B. Trust and cooperation
C. Shared and common goals D. Willingness to participate E. Programme and instruction strategies F. Sharing information and knowledge G. Resources and preconditions. Part 2 consists of a methodological justification and substantiation of the research underpinning the guide as well as a description of the results and ends with a conclusion, discussion and recommendations for further research.
The experiments showed that learning communities that were newly established or had changed in composition after some time mainly opted for design principles A. Getting to know each other and B. Trust and cooperation. Learning communities that had been active for a longer period chose mainly C. Shared and common goals. Further longitudinal and other research is needed to determine to what extent the design principles and the role of the facilitators can be applied in other domains (such as technology, economics, etc.).
- social connectedness
- online communities
- blended learning