Enhancing students' sense of community in online environments
Post on 15-Jun-2016
Enhancing Students' Sense of Community in Online Environments
University of North Texas
College of Information, Department of Library and Information Sciences
Thisposter sessionpresentsan information use model on how Wimba and Scond Life can
facilitate collaborative platforms for users to build sense of communities in distance learning, and
to extend their real life experience into virtual learning environments.
Web-based distance education, or online learning, provides a practical and sound approach to
recruit and retain high quality library and information science students. Online programs are
realistic solutions to most librarians and information professionals to further education while
practice at local information agencies. However, some students might find difficulty in adjusting
to online learning environments when they feel isolated from campuses hundreds of miles away.
Thus, an essential ingredient to the success of distance learning programs is the ability to build
the sense of community (The Sloan Consortium, 2008). In recent years educational institutes are
using Wimba live classrooms to provide synchronous communications with audio and visual-
based interactions between students and instructors (Reyes, 2008). Some educators began using
3D multiple user virtual environments such as Second Life in distance education (Luo & Kemp,
2008; Kemp, 2008). Communication tools such as Second Life and Wimba can serve as part of
personal information infrastructure (Marchinini, 1995) to facilitate learning in real world
environments, and students sense of community may be enhanced since learning takes place in
game-playing environments, where visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences are engaged.
While many online classes have been delivered successfully through text-based discussion boards
in WebCT/Blackboard, little is known how audio/visual-based Wimba Live classroom and 3D
Second Life (SL) virtual classrooms can enhance student collaboration and sense of community,
particularly on how a students experience at virtual environment can influence their real life
performance. The goal of this project is to identify methods to enhance students learning
effectiveness in virtual environment through carbon neutral approaches, particularly by
examining Wimba live classroom and Second Life virtual environment. Specifically, the project
intended to conceptualize a information use model for online instruction using Wimba, Second
Life, as well as traditional discussion boards.
This project will answer the follow research questions:
1. To what extend do students have different sense of community in Wimba Live classroom and
Second Life virtual environment?
2. Can students sense of community change over the time as a result of the information use of
Wimba and Second Life communication tools?
Nine graduate students from a southwest state university participated in this experimental study
in Spring 2009. Students were given 15-minute lecture and live demo on a SL classroom and
then they filled out a pre-test questionnaire on their acceptance of such learning environment.
The survey demonstrated high reliability in previous studies by the author. Students meet in a
regular basis at the computer lab. They gathered regularly to complete learning tasks using
Wimba and SL learning tool. Wimba tool is integrated into local Blackboard learning
management system and Second Life was installed at classroom workstations. After three
classes meetings students completed a post-test survey on their acceptance of the learning
environment and reported their collaboration and sense of community. Class observation and
qualitative feedback was collected and was used as data source to build a conceptual model
describing how students learning experience can be transferred from virtual environment to real
This pilot study presented an information use model on how Wimba and SL can facilitate
collaborative platforms for users to build sense of communities in distance learning, and to
extend their real life experience into virtual learning environments. Both Wimba and 3D SL
learning environments provides effective new communication tools for LIS educators to design
interactive course modules and better facilitate students information needs. Second Life as an
educational tool is still at its initial stage and more research studies are needed.
Kemp, J. (2008). Avatar in the classroom: Teaching the nations first MLIS class in Second Life. In
L. Bell and R. B. Trueman (Eds.), Virtual world, real libraries: Librarians and educations in Second
Life and other multi-user virtual environments (pp. 199-205). Medford: NJ: Information Today.
Luo, L., & Kemp, J. (2008). Second Life: Exploring the immersive instructional venue for library
and information science education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 49
Marchionini, G. (1995). The continuing evolution of information seeking. In Information seeking in
electronic environments. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Reyes, M. E. (2008). The WIMBA experience: Technology in the Rio Grande Valley. First Monday
13 (5). Accessed May 25, 2009 from
The Sloan Consortium (2008). NASULGC-Sloan National Commission on oOnline learning
benchmarking study: Preliminary findings. Accessed May 25, 2009 from