Growing online learning communities when student engagement is low

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How do you grow learning communities that are based primarily online?

What drives student and learner engagement?

What processes drive engagement beyond the first few logins?

These are all questions that I’m considering when building our online learning communities. They are also questions I don’t have answers to. Part of starting a new type of learning project is being willing to sit with those questions and work towards the answers. It’s quite hard doing that in public, as I feel as a company we are very much learning as we go.

How do you encourage learners to take up the opportunity to learn online? One of the recent criticisms of the online learning trend with the marketing of online Diplomas funded by VET-FEE HELP is the style of learning requires  a very high level of engagement, motivation and capacity to study without external support.

Blended learning is one way of creating community. It’s why we offer tutorials, as we are essentially social beings, and people like sitting together and talking.

It’s one of the biggest lessons about running learning programs. The most popular parts were the breaks, where people got to talk to each other and share from experience.

It’s the sharing from experience that we are trying to replicate, sharing that builds on existing skills, capacity that grows within organisations.

Creating online learning communities 


Creating communities  is a different process, because it is very different from the  one learner who enrolls in a course, and  starts out in isolation. It’s not like Facebook where the network effect is in operation, it’s trying to create engagement in workplaces and communities that don’t have high rates of involvement or completion in online processes at all, in any form. The exception to this is students’ personal use of social media, and workplace use of social media.

This requires thinking beyond the simple sale of a learning product, or the sale of a diploma, or enrollment of students, or installation of a compliance learning platform.

It’s  a major  reason I made the decision to start data collection, to form a picture of student activities  and see if we could create engagement and learning communities together using data to inform the process.

Social Media Engagement 


We did an experiment recently where we split test the engagement with social media through different channels and discovered that engagement rates were far higher through LinkedIn. As a guess, I’d suggest that the results may be due to use of LinkedIn in the workplace is viewed as more legitimate in the community sector than say Facebook. Twitter doesn’t seem to be used very much at all in the community sector, but I’d argue that there will be different ways and methods of using social media to learn together than those we currently have in place. For example, Facebook groups, online learning platform, webinars, face to face tutorials. I’m exploring with colleagues and our customers,   looking for some combination of all the different channels and methods that create engagement and we haven’t found a solution yet. It isn’t about transplanting something that works in the social sphere and adapting it but trying to work with and understand engagement driven by data in a way that creates new opportunities to learn in community.