Jenni Parker

Designing authentic online community of learning experiences for higher education 


A key challenge for university professionals is to identify how to construct more interactive, engaging and student-centred environments that promote key learning skills and encourage self-directed learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of an online professional development course that would enable higher education practitioners to design more interactive and engaging online courses.

An extensive review of the literature identified principles of online learning that informed the development of an authentic community of learning framework that was used to guide the design and implementation of the professional development course. Key principles encompassed in the framework include: 21st century learning skills, authentic learning elements, Community of Inquiry components—social, cognitive and teaching presence, meaningful learning with technology and using open educational resources. The learning environment comprised a Moodle learning management system (LMS) and an open Google Sites website.

Specifically, the research sought to investigate which elements of the framework higher educational practitioners found to be most effective in helping create an interactive and engaging online learning experience, and whether the authentic community of learning framework influenced their existing teaching practices.

The study employed a design-based research approach in the form of an interpretive, qualitative study. Data collection methods included surveys, participant artefacts, contributions to forums, blog reflections and interviews with selected participants. Data was coded and analysed using a constant comparative method of analysis.

Findings suggest that the authentic community of learning framework was a successful alternative to models frequently used to develop online professional development courses and provided learners with greater flexibility and control over their learning. Participants themselves believed that the online course influenced their choice of strategy when designing their future online courses.


Parker, J., Maor, D. & Herrington, J. (2013). Authentic online learning: Aligning learner needs, pedagogy and technology. Issues in Educational Research , 23(2), 227-241.

Parker, J., Maor, D. and Herrington, J. (2013) Under the hood: How an authentic online course was designed, delivered and evaluated. Teaching and Learning Forum 2013: Design, develop, evaluate - The core of the learning environment, 7 -8 February 2013, Murdoch University, Murdoch, W.A.

Parker, J. (2012)Designing and delivering authentic online learning: A design-based research approach. MUPSA Multidisciplinary Conference 2012, 27 September 2012, Murdoch University, Murdoch, W.A.

Herrington, J., Parker, J. & Duvall, S. (2012). Design-based research: Research that makes a difference in education. Presentation for the Western Australian Institute for Educational Research 2012, 19 September 2012, Murdoch University.

Parker, J. (2012). Authentic eDesign: An online professional development course for higher education practitioners. In: WAIER 27th Annual Research Forum: Transforming practice: The value of educational research, 11 August 2012, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, WA.

Parker, J. (2012). eDesign: An authentic online learning course using Moodle paired with an open companion website. MoodleMoot au 2012, 1 - 4 July, 2012, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Center, Queensland.

Parker, J. (2011) A design-based research approach for creating effective online higher education courses. 26th Annual Research Forum (Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Inc) Educational Possibilities, 13 Aug 2011, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, WA.