Unit Three: How Can Learning Activities and Technology Contribute to Building Community?

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Unit Objectives

  • Understand how different types of learning activities can be adapted to build learning communities and support collaboration
  • Examine how technology can be used to enrich learning activities and enable student interaction
  • Begin to apply these principles to planning an online learning activity

As We Begin This Unit

  • Keep in mind the work you have done so far in reviewing your learning objectives and aligning them with your assessments.
  • You will use this information to guide your thinking in conceptualizing an online learning activity that can be used to build community and encourage collaboration.
  • Again, make note of your questions. Your faculty instructional technologist will help you implement this new learning activity.

Learning Activities

Your next step is to think about what types of interactions you want your students to engage in. Recall that in Unit One, we discussed student-student and student-instructor interactions. Another very common form of interaction is student-content interaction. Take another look at your learning contract. Do you have case studies, readings such as articles, links to web pages or videos? Are your students are using these materials to enhance their own individual learning?

If so, take a few minutes to consider how they might be adapted or refocused to shift your students from individual work to group collaborative work? How might you restructure an existing learning activity to have your students use these resources as a jumping off point for working together in small groups to exchange, evaluate, their thinking as they work toward group understanding? How might you accomplish this: through discourse, shared authorship or peer assessment?

To stimulate your thinking, here are some collaborative learning activities that are well suited for building community in the online learning environment:

  • Discussions
    • Student-moderated
    • Q & A with invited guest
    • Discussions that are tied to a learning activity, such as watching a video, completing a task
  • Group projects
    • Group-authored case analysis
    • Group-authored report
    • Group presentation
  • Reflective writing
    • Individual reflection with peer comments
    • Group-authored reflection or post-mortem following an activity
  • Debates
  • Role plays
  • Class-generated content
    • Glossary
    • Textbook
    • Exhibit

To learn more about these learning activities, read Palloff & Pratt, 2005, Part Two: Collaborative Activities pages 55-100.

Group Discussion

Watch each of these brief videos, keeping in mind your earlier reading in this unit about different types of collaborative learning activities. Think about how you might use one of these technology tools to create an online learning activity for your blended study. Write a brief description of how you might structure your activity, including your learning goals and possible assessments. Include your thoughts on how students might collaborate and what benefits might result. Comment on at least two of your peers's postings. You may also want to keep a list of your technology concerns.

Additional Resources

  • Watson, Kate, and Chelsea Harper. (2008). Supporting Knowledge Creation: Using Wikis for Group Collaboration". (Research Bulletin, Issue 3). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research. PDF. http://bit.ly/saYx2d
  • Educause Learning Initiative. (2005). Seven Things You Should Know About Blogs. PDF. http://bit.ly/7ZMYCL
  • MacKnight, C. (2000). Teaching Critical Thinking through Online Discussions. Educause Quarterly. PDF. http://bit.ly/6GQ7qF

Connect to Group Discussion Area: Talk: Unit Three: How Can Learning Activities and Technology Contribute to Community Building?


Write a 300-500 reflection in which you consider how you might use one of the above technologies to support a collaborative learning activity in your revised learning contract. Think about what unanswered questions you may have, concerns that may be a source of confusion or a barrier to implementation. Also consider to what extent your thinking has changed, and if so, in what way.

Each participant will post a reflection to share with our community at Unit Three Reflections.