Ruth E. Brown


The purpose of this study was to develop a theory about the process through which community formed in adult computer-mediated asynchronous distance learning classes. A grounded theory design incorporated archived class input as well as interviews with twenty-one students and three faculty members from three graduate-level distance education classes.
A three-stage phenomenon was ascertained. The first stage was making friends on-line with whom students felt comfortable communicating. The second stage was community conferment (acceptance) which occurred when students were part of a long, thoughtful, threaded discussion on a subject of importance after which participants felt both personal satisfaction and kinship. The third stage was camaraderie which was achieved after long-term or intense association with others involving personal communication. Each of these stages involved a greater degree of engagement in both the class and the dialogue.
Causal conditions, intervening conditions, strategies and consequences were enumerated. A visual model of the entire process of community-building was advanced. Benefits of community were noted, and suggestions were made to facilitate the formation of an on-line community.



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