Digital learning communities are important for several reasons. For one, students engage more deeply with content in courses where there are opportunities for everyone to meaningfully interact with each other. Research on creating communities of inquiry suggest that a successful learning experience must include teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence (Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. 2000). When teachers invest in thoughtful course design and foster collaboration between students, learners are more likely to reflect deeply on course content and construct new knowledge.
Digital community also helps everyone feel a greater sense of belonging in a course, which can significantly impact student success. This is particularly true for underrepresented students (Eddy & Hogan, 2014; Walton & Cohen, 2011). Research shows that when students feel they don’t belong at a given institution, it can result in anxiety and stereotype threat, and ultimately negatively affect their academic performance (Schmader et al., 2009). Intentionally cultivating an equitable community where all perspectives are represented can make a huge difference for underrepresented students. Doing so also supports Brown University’s broader inclusion efforts, as DIAP Phase II expresses a commitment to “address disparities that emerge (across race and other aspects of identity) in order to improve campus climate and culture, as well as overall sense of belonging.” (P 10)