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Building A Healthy Online Student Community Through Education Environment Design

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Design Across the Curriculum

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.239.1 - 24.239.15



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Paper Authors


Karen L. Bollenbach University of Virginia

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Mrs. Bollenbach is a student at the University of Virginia and anticipates receiving her B.S. in engineering science in May 2014. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in health education in 1993 before beginning a career in the insurance industry. In 2009, she began studying drafting and engineering at Tidewater Community College. As a 2013 Virginia Microelectronics Consortium (VMEC) summer scholar, she conducted thermoelectric thin film research at the Applied Research Center at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. She is currently participating in the “Engineers PRODUCED in Virginia” program, delivered in a synchronized learning environment, which allows students like her to remain in their community while completing their coursework. It is this experience that inspired her research into online student communities.

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Erika D. Powell University of Virginia

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Erika Powell is a doctoral candidate in the instructional technology program at the University of Virginia. Her areas of expertise and interest include instructional design, performance improvement, and online learning communities.

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Stephanie L. Moore University of Virginia

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Dr. Stephanie L. Moore is an assistant professor of instructional technology at the University of Virginia.

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James F. Groves University of Virginia

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Building a successful online student community by overcoming alienation and powerlessness Karen Bollenbach, Erika Powell and James Groves The University of Virginia EXTENDED ABSTRACTOn-campus college students build a sense of community and bond through classroomexperiences and extra-curricular activities. These experiences are often absent for onlinestudents and as a result they have a lower rate of persistence. Studies have found that thephysical separation between the student and the educational institution can lead to a sense ofisolation. As a result, online students can feel a sense of alienation from their institution andpowerless to change their situation. Numerous factors contribute to these feelings, including thequality and quantity of interaction with instructors and fellow students, the usability of theavailable online education software systems, and the demographics of students in the onlineprogram. As the popularity of online education grows, educational institutions will need to find away to foster a sense of community for alternative learning environments. Our investigationshave identified several methods for achieving this goal and accruing the resulting benefits. First,by establishing effective channels of communication, students can receive the timely feedbackthat they need from their instructors. This feedback should lack ambiguity and include positivereinforcement. Second, by encouraging and/or facilitating student-to-student interactions, it ispossible to create a greater sense of student community that lessens the burden of the institutionto provide all support and interaction. Finally, by providing students with an appropriateintroduction to the online education software systems, it is possible to alleviate student anxietyabout engagement in learning online.

Bollenbach, K. L., & Powell, E. D., & Moore, S. L., & Groves, J. F. (2014, June), Building A Healthy Online Student Community Through Education Environment Design Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20130

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