Establishing a Community of Learners: A Case Study of a University Graduate Orientation Program for Online Learners

Laura Zieger
New Jersey City University

Joe Pulichino
Athena Learning Group


Following the theory that a community of practice must be comprised of three elements: domain, community, and practice (Wenger, 2001), this case study examines the extent to which a university was successful in establishing a community of learners in their orientation program for online graduate students. Specifically, it explores the objectives of the orientation, identifies critical questions involved in the design decisions that are made, explicitly or implicitly, analyzes the success to which goals are met, and provides recommendations for future planning based on this research.

About the Author(s)...

Laura Zieger is an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at New Jersey City University in the Graduate College of Education. She is also an Ed.D. candidate in the Educational Technology program in the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University. Her current research interests focus on student orientation in distance learning programs and the impact of communities of learners and their formation of identities on online teaching and learning. Laura may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Joe Pulichino began his career in education as an English instructor at Rutgers University over 25 years ago. Since then he has held a number of senior management positions in the technology sector. Most recently he has served as vice-president of education services at Sybase, vice-president of eLearning at Global Knowledge Network, and CEO of EduPoint. He is an adjunct faculty member of the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology where he is completing his Ed.D. in Education Technology. The focus of his research is on informal and organizational learning. Joe is Director of Research at the eLearning Guild and President of the Athena Learning Group.

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