Learning Better Together: Creating and Maintaining a 100% Online Student-Driven Learning Community

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Struggling to form student-driven clubs or learning communities in the online modality? This discussion is for you.


Dr. Stephen Brewer is licensed clinical psychologist in California (PSY 26277) and joined Ashford University as an Assistant Professor in the College of Health, Human Services, and Sciences in 2012. He holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology as well as an MA in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in San Diego, CA and a BS in Psychology from University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on online learning communities and on psychologist and counselor competence in working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, couples, and families.
Dr. Belcher has been with Ashford University since 2012. Over most of the past two decades, his educational and practical experience have allowed him the opportunity to serve in various capacities such as pastoral ministry, counseling, consulting, teaching, and administration. Previously he was a faculty member and an Associate Dean at Kaplan University and held administrative positions at Patten University and at New Charter University. He has a PhD and MS in Psychology from Capella University and a BS with a double major in Ministry and Theology from Mid-America Christian University. Dr. Belcher's current academic interests include education, leadership, and wellness. He has published multiple research papers on competency-based and online education.

Extended Abstract

Three years into an ongoing research project, we are continuing to gather evidence showing that student outcomes in our online learning communities are comparable to outcomes in in-person learning communities. With this evidence, more programs at our institution are moving toward forming their own learning communities. This has come with unique challenges as programs navigate the often complicated process of establishing student-driven online learning communities in an entirely online asynchronous environment where students have never met in-person and tend to disengage from one another.

Our discussion will offer practical advice regarding the formation of a 100% online student-driven learning community. We will cover several frequently answered questions in addition to questions from the audience. Some of these questions are:

  • What platform do students tend to prefer?
  • If the club or learning community needs student officers, how can we find them?
  • What membership criteria should we consider, if any?
  • What is the role of a faculty advisor?
  • How can we establish a student-led mentorship program within the learning community?
  • What activities get the most engagement from students?
  • How do we build awareness of our learning community?

We will also share updates on our ongoing research project, including specific improvements in student outcomes such as retention and satisfaction with the university as a result of membership in our online learning community. Finally, we will share preliminary results from our 2016 study examining the effect of membership in an online learning community on student engagement in the online classroom.