Internet Relationships: Building Learning Communities through Friendship
The experiences of students in an online learning community were explored in this qualitative case study using social presence theory as an interpretive lens. Participants included five undergraduate students in a certificate program at a large Midwestern university. Students who felt a sense of community online most highly valued the friendship they felt with their online teammates. Three main components were key in the development of friendship: individual learner factors, sharing, and support. All students found face-to-face contact to be essential, as it deepened their relationships considerably. Suggestions for how faculty can encourage the building of friendships online are given. Further research is recommended into the role students’ personalities and face-to-face contact play in building an online community.