Establishing and Maintaining a Dynamic Learning & Teaching Community via an Online Learning Management System Platform
Teacher Learning Communities (TLC) have been recognised as key factors in achieving high level engagement and quality outcomes for both teaching staff and for students. Their purpose is to create a shared space in which disciplinary knowledge and issues of practice can be shared and discussed. However, in the context of issues in our institution, such as lack of time, space, funding, and a highly casualised working environment, establishing and maintaining such a community is a challenge.Creating an online community offered a solution to a number of these issues.
The Learning Management System at our institution was chosen to establish a TLC for the following reasons: it was immediately accessible to all staff members and offered a range of tools for cross communication. Further, it provided staff with a selection of specialised pedagogical resources and enabled collection and collation of action research. From a design perspective, the project was informed by current research which has found that users make decisions on the usefulness and user friendliness of online learning systems based on their reactions to the environment. Thus a secondary aim was that the site should act as an exemplar of a highly engaging LMS, one which motivates by being aesthetically pleasing, well organized, and inclusive of multi-modal content.
Regular activities are designed to promote knowledge building, exchange of ideas and to embed a signi cant level of re ection to encourage teaching staff to adapt and improve their practice. This enables staff to take an active role in collecting and sharing their own observational research thus integrating both praxis and re ection.
Moreover, the use of the LMS platform gives staff the opportunity to explore a range of e-learning and teaching tools and to practice using such tools to create engaging course content. The Teacher Learning Community via the Blackboard platform thus integrates both the technological and pedagogical aspects of professional development.
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