Promoting Student Engagement with a Virtual Learning Community at an Urban, Private University in the Northeast

Anthony R Fruzzetti, Johnson & Wales University

Abstract

The study purpose was to investigate the possibility of increasing student engagement in traditional college classrooms by designing, creating, implementing, and maintaining a virtual learning community as an added resource for students. Because “students’ active involvement with learning positively influences their academic achievement” (Ullah & Wilson, 2007, p. 1192) and because “students learn by becoming involved” (Astin, 1984, p. 305), increasing student engagement requires reaching students with a variety of active and collaborative learning methods (Ullah & Wilson, 2007). In this the 21st century, almost all students are engaged in online activities; being connected has become essential to young people (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2006). Thus, seeking a way to engage students through their affinity for the virtual world using a virtual learning community was the underlying frame for this exploratory study.^ A two-phase, mixed methods approach was used. Two focus groups of undergraduates (N = 10, N = 11) were conducted to gather information about student attitudes toward a virtual community as an academic tool and to solicit suggestions for improving the initial version; the virtual learning community was revised accordingly. The updated virtual learning community was activated and data collected to assess student participation and engagement in the virtual learning community and in the classroom (N = 81). Assessments were made using adaptations of validated rubrics for student participation and engagement. Student demographic data were collected on gender, entering grade point average, and technology skill. Costs associated with the development of the virtual learning community were estimated for faculty time and dollars spent.^ Findings from the study included: (1) Virtual leaning communities need to be highly customizable by student users; (2) Strong positive relationships resulted between student participation and engagement in the virtual learning community and student engagement in the virtual learning community and in the classroom; (3) Many students opted out of voluntary participation in the virtual learning community (41%); (4) Little relationship between student characteristics and use of the virtual learning community resulted, except that high performing students were more likely to participate and engage, whereas low performing students were more likely to be non-participants. ^

Subject Area

Education, Leadership|Education, Technology of

Recommended Citation

Anthony R Fruzzetti, "Promoting Student Engagement with a Virtual Learning Community at an Urban, Private University in the Northeast" (January 1, 2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. Paper AAI3449268.
http://scholarsarchive.jwu.edu/dissertations/AAI3449268

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