Student Perceptions of a Successful Online Collaborative Learning Community

Michael L. Waugh
Jian Su
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville


This paper shares the perceptions of a group of 11 successful online students regarding the value of the collaborative learning community that developed as part of their participation in the first cohort of the WebIT online Master of Science Degree in Instructional Technology program, at The University of Tennessee at Knoxville during 2008-2010. All 11 students began the program in the Summer semester of 2008 and graduated at the end of the Spring semester, 2010. These students voluntarily completed an electronically-administered Program Completion Survey to provide the WebIT program faculty with information to help improve the design and delivery of the program. The survey consisted of 66 items, 17 of which constituted a subscale that addressed aspects of collaborative learning community. These seventeen items were further grouped into 6 concept clusters that serve to organize the discussion in this paper. The WebIT online program characteristics appeared to be strongly supportive of the emergence of a collaborative learning community among the program completers. These results demonstrate the value of promoting cohort group inter-connectedness as well as the benefit of incorporating professional practice experiences within the instructional program.

About the Author(s)...

Michael L. Waugh is a Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. His research interests focus on developing effective online courses and programs and how collaborative learning can be used to enhance student retention and achievement in online instructional programs. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jian Su is a Graduate Research Associate in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at The University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
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