chapter  4
18 Pages

Communities of Practice Approach: A New Model for Online Course Development and Sustainability

Online courses are quickly being woven into the fabric of “traditional” education

because of student demand, institutional demand, and research that suggests

students in online classes learn as well as or better than they do in face-to-face

classes. Students continue to seek out online educational opportunities because

of the flexibility in scheduling, the time-saving features, and the ability to attend

to family responsibilities while taking courses (Leh, 2002; Shea, Swan,

Fredericksen, & Pickett, 2002; Young, 2006). Colleges and universities, in turn,

have felt an increasing demand to offer online courses. According to the National

Center for Education Statistics, 61% of 2-year and 4-year institutions reported

offering online courses, and an estimated 12.2 million enrollments (or regis-

trations) in college-level credit-granting distance education courses (Parsed &

Lewis, 2008). The 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning also reports that

enrollment in online courses rose by more than 17% from a year earlier (Allen

& Seaman, 2010). During times of economic downturn, administrators are also

quick to believe that online courses can help solve budgetary problems. Iron-

ically, these economic circumstances create an environment in which resources

for course development are scarce. Finally, a meta-analysis by a team from the

Center for Technology in Learning of the U.S. Department of Education (Means,

Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009) claimed that “on average, students in

online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face

instruction” (p. ix).