The importance of community and collaboration in learning comes from at least two groups. Social constructivist, such as Lev Vygotsky, “assert students do not learn in isolation” while cognitive psychologists maintain “people naturally learn and work collaboratively” (Rovai, 2007, p. 79). Laurillard (as cited by Rovai) argues “higher education must go beyond access to information or content.” It must include “engagement with others in the gradual development of their personal understanding” (p. 137). Engagement is developed through student interaction, with peers and instructor. Distance education must create learning communities where members feel connected to one another and are able to assist their peers in learning. Effective distance education programs provide students with a supportive community (Rovai).
The following section provides the online instructor with online course design strategies to: