Institutional Factors for Supporting Electronic Learning Communities


  • Jayme N. Linton Lenoir-Rhyne University



electronic learning community, online learning community, K-12, virtual school, community of practice


This study was designed to explore how the electronic learning community (eLC) process at an established state virtual high school (SVHS) supported new and veteran online high school teachers through the communities of practice (CoP) framework. Specifically, this study focused on the institutionally-driven nature of the eLC process, using Wenger’s CoP framework to analyze institutional factors that influenced the eLC process. Case study methods, including observation, interviews, and document analysis, were used to provide a rich and dynamic analysis of the eLC process in light of what research says about preparation and support for quality online teaching. While the institutionally-driven nature of the eLC process posed some barriers to alignment with the domain and community elements of the CoP framework, case study participants expressed that the eLC process impacted their practice and connected them to colleagues with which they could collaborate and problem solve. The use of strategies such as valuing the work of eLCs, removing barriers, and connecting the eLC process to the organizational strategy served to facilitate alignment with the CoP framework and overcome some of the potential disadvantages of an institutionally-driven eLC process.

Author Biography

Jayme N. Linton, Lenoir-Rhyne University

Assistant Professor School of Education


Barbour, M. K., Siko, J., Gross, E., & Waddell, K. (2013). Virtually unprepared: Examining the preparation of K-12 online teachers. In R. Hartshorne, T. L. Heafner, & T. M. Petty, (Eds.), Teacher education programs and online learning tools: Innovations in teacher preparation (pp. 120-143). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Chen, Y., Chen, N.-S., & Tsai, C.-C. (2009). The use of online synchronous discussion for web-based professional development for teachers. Computers & Education, 53(4), 1155-1166.

Clary, R. M., & Wandersee, J. H. (2009). Can teachers learn in an online environment? KappaDelta Pi Record, 46(1), 34-38.

Duncan-Howell, J. (2010). Teachers making connections: Online communities as a source of professional learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(2), 324-340.

Garrison, D. R., & Anderson, T. (2003). E–Learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. London: Routledge/Falmer.

Hawkins, A.; Graham, C. R., & Barbour, M. K. (2012). Everybody is their own island: Teacher disconnection in a virtual school. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(2), 123-144.

Holmes, A., Signer, B., & MacLeod, A. (2010). Professional development at a distance: A mixed-methods study exploring inservice teachers' views on presence online. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27(2), 76-85.

Journell, W., Beeson, M. W., Crave, J. J., Gomez, M., Linton, J. N., Taylor, M. O. (2013). Training teachers for virtual classrooms: A description of an experimental course in online pedagogy. In R. Hartshorne, T. L. Heafner, & T. M. Petty, (Eds.), Teacher education programs and online learning tools: Innovations in teacher preparation (pp. 120-143). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Learn NC (2008). Training teachers to teach online: The importance of certification for online instructors [White paper]. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Learn NC:

Lock, J. (2006). A new image: Online communities to facilitate teacher professional Â

development. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(4), 663-678.

Marek, K. (2009). Learning to teach online: Creating a culture of support for faculty. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 50(4), 275-292.

National Education Association. (2006). Guide to teaching online courses. Retrieved from

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2011). The excellent online instructor: Strategies for professional development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Parr, J., & Ward, L. (2006). Building on foundations: Creating an online community. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(4), 775-793.

Ray, J. (2009). Faculty perspective: Training and course development for the online classroom. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2), 263-276.

Redmond, P. (2011). From face-to-face teaching to online teaching: Pedagogical transitions. Paper presented at Ascilite 2011, Hobart Tasmania, Australia. Retrieved from

Rovai, A. (2001). Building community at a distance: A case study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(4), 33-48.

Schlager, M. S., & Fusco, J. (2003). Teacher professional development, technology, and

communities of practice: Are we putting the cart before the horse? The Information Society, 19(3), 203-220.

Signer, B. (2008). Online professional development: Combining best practices from teacher, technology and distance education. Journal of In-service Education, 34(2), 205-218.

So, H.-J., Lossman, H., Lim, W.-Y., & Jacobson, M. J. (2009). Designing an online video based platform for teacher learning in Singapore. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology,25(3), 440-457.

Stake, R. (1995). The art of case study research. Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Tsai, I.-C., Laffey, J. M., & Hanuscin, D. (2010). Effectiveness of an online community of practice for learning to teach elementary science. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 43(2), 225-258.

Waltonen-Moore, S., Stuart, D., Newton, E., Oswald, R., & Varonis, E. (2006). From virtualstrangers to a cohesive online learning community: The evolution of online group development in a professional development course. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 14(2), 287-311.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Williams, L. A., Atkinson, L. C., Cate, J. M., & O’Hair, M. J. (2008). Mutual support between learning community development and technology integration: Impact on school practices and student achievement. Theory into Practice, 47(4), 294-302.

Yeh, Y.-C. (2010a). Analyzing online behaviors, roles, & learning communities via online discussions. Educational Technology and Society, 13(1), 140-151.

Yeh, Y.-C. (2010b). Integrating collaborative PBL with blended learning to explore preservice teachers' development of online learning communities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(8), 1630-1640.

Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Sage: Los Angeles, CA.






Students, Community, and Online Learning