Building online learning communities in a graduate dental hygiene program.

Journal of dental hygiene : JDH / American Dental Hygienists' Association

PubMedID: 25295842

Rogo EJ, Portillo KM. Building online learning communities in a graduate dental hygiene program. J Dent Hyg. 2014;88(4):213-28.
PURPOSE
The literature abounds with research related to building online communities in a single course; however, limited evidence is available on this phenomenon from a program perspective. The intent of this qualitative case study inquiry was to explore student experiences in a graduate dental hygiene program contributing or impeding the development and sustainability of online learning communities.

METHODS
Approval from the IRB was received. A purposive sampling technique was used to recruit participants from a stratification of students and graduates. A total of 17 participants completed semi-structured interviews. Data analysis was completed through 2 rounds - 1 for coding responses and 1 to construct categories of experiences.

RESULTS
The participants' collective definition of an online learning community was a complex synergistic network of interconnected people who create positive energy. The findings indicated the development of this network began during the program orientation and was beneficial for building a foundation for the community. Students felt socially connected and supported by the network. Course design was another important category for participation in weekly discussions and group activities. Instructors were viewed as active participants in the community, offering helpful feedback and being a facilitator in discussions. Experiences impeding the development of online learning communities related to the poor performance of peers and instructors.

CONCLUSION
Specific categories of experiences supported and impeded the development of online learning communities related to the program itself, course design, students and faculty. These factors are important to consider in order to maximize student learning potential in this environment.