Title: Virtual learning communities: success factors and challenges

Authors: René Wegener; Jan Marco Leimeister

Addresses: Information Systems, Kassel University, Pfannkuchstraße 1, 34121 Kassel, Germany ' Information Systems, Kassel University, Pfannkuchstraße 1, 34121 Kassel, Germany

Abstract: Despite their didactical potential many Virtual Learning Communities (VLCs) fail in enhancing learning outcomes. Therefore, we synthesise factors most critical for establishing a successful VLC. Applying a structured literature review, we searched for studies dealing with VLCs in the well known databases Business Source Premier, Science Direct and ERIC. We identified, classified and synthesised 64 relevant papers. Results indicate that critical success factors include a strong instructor that acts in different facilitation roles, face-to-face meetings that help establishing social ties and well structured small-group assignments that scaffold the learning process. Main challenges are a lack of common goals, feelings of inhibition and technical problems. Based on the review, we offer concrete advice for instructors building up VLCs. We suggest that future research should focus on the design of methods and tools for instructors to facilitate the learning process in a less resource demanding way.

Keywords: virtual learning communities; web based learning communities; online learning communities; internet; world wide web; e-communities; electronic communities; success factors; challenges; didactical potential; learning outcomes; CSF; critical success factors; strong instructors; facilitation roles; face-to-face meetings; social ties; well structured assignments; small-group assignments; learning processes; common goals; inhibition; technical problems; resource demands; technology enhanced learning.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTEL.2012.051814

International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 2012 Vol.4 No.5/6, pp.383 - 397

Received: 17 Mar 2012
Accepted: 05 Nov 2012

Published online: 23 Jan 2013 *

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