In this article we share the Academic Communities of Engagement (ACE) framework, which describes a student’s ability to engage affectively, behaviorally, and cognitively in an online or blended course independently and with support. Based on Vygotsky’s (Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1978) zone of proximal development, the framework examines how a student’s ability to engage in online or blended courses increases with support from two types of communities. The course community is organized and facilitated by those associated with the course or program. The personal community is comprised of actors not officially associated with the course who have typically formed relationships with the student before the course or program began and may extend well beyond its boundaries. Actors within each community have varying skills and abilities to support student engagement, and a student is most likely to reach the necessary engagement for academic success with active support from both. The framework identifies the community actors most likely to provide specific support elements, aligning them to the different types of student engagement. The article outlines implications for practice and research, concluding with illustrative examples.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks,5(2), 1–17.
Archer, W. (2010). Beyond online discussions: Extending the community of inquiry framework to entire courses. The Internet and Higher Education,13(1–2), 69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.005.
Arizona State University Online. (2017). ASU Online launches success center. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://asuonline.asu.edu/newsroom/online-learning-tips/asu-online-launches-success-center/.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.
Ben-Eliyahu, A., Moore, D., Dorph, R., & Schunn, C. D. (2018). Investigating the multidimensionality of engagement: Affective, behavioral, and cognitive engagement across science activities and contexts. Contemporary Educational Psychology,53(1), 87–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2018.01.002.
Borup, J. (2016a). Teacher perceptions of parent engagement at a cyber high school. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2016.1146560.
Borup, J. (2016b). Teacher perceptions of learner-learner engagement at a cyber high school. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v17i3.2361.
Borup, J. (2018). On-site and online facilitators: Current and future direction for research. In K. Kennedy & R. Ferdig (Eds.), Handbook of research on K-12 online and blended learning (2nd ed., pp. 423–442). Halifax: ETC Press.
Borup, J., Chambers, C., & Stimson, R. (2019a). K-12 student perceptions of online teacher and on-site facilitator support in supplemental online courses. Online Learning,23(4), 253–280.
Borup, J., Chambers, C., & Stimson, R. (2019b). Online teacher and on-site facilitator perceptions of parental engagement at a supplemental virtual high school. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i2.4237.
Borup, J., Graham, C. R., & Drysdale, J. S. (2014a). The nature of teacher engagement at an online high school. British Journal of Educational Technology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12089.
Borup, J., & Stevens, M. (2016). Parents’ perceptions of teacher support at a cyber charter high school. Journal of Online Learning Research.,2, 227–246.
Borup, J., & Stevens, M. A. (2017). Using student voice to examine teacher practices at a cyber charter high school. British Journal of Educational Technology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12541.
Borup, J., Stevens, M. A., & Hasler-Waters, L. (2015). Parent and student perceptions of parent engagement at a cyber charter high school. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network,19(5), 69–91.
Borup, J., & Stimson, R. (2019). Online teachers’ and on-site facilitators’ shared responsibilities at a supplemental virtual secondary school. American Journal of Distance Education,33(1), 29–45.
Borup, J., West, R. E., Graham, C. R., & Davies, R. S. (2014b). The Adolescent Community of Engagement: A framework for research on adolescent online learning. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education,22(1), 107–129.
Cho, V., & Littenberg-Tobias, J. (2016). Digital devices and teaching the whole student: Developing and validating an instrument to measure educators’ attitudes and beliefs. Educational Technology Research and Development,64(4), 643–659. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-016-9441-x.
Christenson, S. L., Reschly, A. L., & Wylie, C. (2012). Handbook of research on student engagement. New York, NY: Springer.
de la Varre, C., Irvin, M. J., Jordan, A. W., Hannum, W. H., & Farmer, T. W. (2014). Reasons for student dropout in an online course in a rural K-12 setting. Distance Education,35(3), 324–344. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2015.955259.
Drysdale, J. S., Graham, C. R., & Borup, J. (2014). An online high school “shepherding” program: Teacher roles and experiences mentoring online students. Journal of Technology & Teacher Education, 22(1), 9–32.
Dziuban, C., Graham, C. R., Moskal, P. D., Norberg, A., & Sicilia, N. (2018). Blended learning: The new normal and emerging technologies. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 15, 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-017-0087-5.
Faller, M. (2018). ASU helps more students return after freshman year and thrive during college. ASU Now. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://asunow.asu.edu/20180828-asu-news-freshman-retention-higher-national-average-thrive.
Farrell, E. F. (2007). Some colleges provide success coaches for students: New kind of adviser helps hone life and study skills. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(46). https://www.chronicle.com/article/Some-Colleges-Provide-Success/10133.
Ferdig, R. E., Cavanaugh, C., DiPietro, M., Black, E., & Dawson, K. (2009). Virtual schooling standards and best practices for teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education,17(4), 479–503.
Filak, V. F., & Sheldon, K. M. (2008). Teacher support, student motivation, student need satisfaction, and college teacher course evaluations: Testing a sequential path model. Educational Psychology,28(6), 711–724. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410802337794.
Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research,74(1), 59–109.
Freidhoff, J. R. (2018). Michigan’s k-12 virtual learning effectiveness report: 2016-17. Lansing, MI: Michigan Virtual University. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://mvlri.org/research/effectiveness-report/.
Garrison, R. (2009). Implications of online learning for the conceptual development and practice of distance education. Journal of Distance Education,23(2), 93–104.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education,2(2–3), 87–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6.
Gemin, B., Pape, L., Vashaw, L., & Watson, J. (2016). Keeping pace with K-12 online learning. Evergreen Education. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://www.evergreenedgroup.com/keeping-pace-reports.
Gill, B., Walsh, L., Wulsin, C. S., Matulewicz, H., Severn, V., Grau, E., …, Kerwin, T. (2015). Inside online charter schools. Cambridge, MA: Walton Family Foundation and Mathematica Policy Research. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/~/media/publications/pdfs/education/inside_online_charter_schools.pdf.
Graham, C. R., Henrie, C. R., & Gibbons, A. S. (2014). Developing models and theory for blended learning research. In A. G. Picciano, C. D. Dziuban, & C. R. Graham (Eds.), Blended learning: Research perspectives (Vol. 2, pp. 13–33). New York: Routledge.
Halverson, L. R., & Graham, C. R. (2019). Learner engagement in blended learning environments: A conceptual framework. Online Learning.,23(2), 145–178. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i2.1481.
Hannum, W. H., Irvin, M. J., Lei, P., & Farmer, T. W. (2008). Effectiveness of using learner-centered principles on student retention in distance education courses in rural schools. Distance Education,29(3), 211–229. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587910802395763.
Harms, C. M., Niederhauser, D. S., Davis, N. E., Roblyer, M. D., & Gilbert, S. B. (2006). Educating educators for virtual schooling: Communicating roles and responsibilities. The Electronic Journal of Communication,16(1 & 2), 17–24.
Hasler Waters, L., & Leong, P. (2014). Who is teaching? New roles for teachers and parents in cyber charter schools. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 22(1), 33–56.
Hendrix, N., & Degner, K. (2016). Supporting online AP students: The rural facilitator and considerations for training. American Journal of Distance Education,30(3), 133–144. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2016.1198194.
Henrie, C. R., Halverson, L. R., & Graham, C. R. (2015). Measuring student engagement in technology-mediated learning: A review. Computers & Education, 90, 36–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2015.09.005.
Hillman, D. C., Willis, D. J., & Gunawardena, C. (1994). Learner-interface interaction in distance education: An extension of contemporary models and strategies for practitioners. American Journal of Distance Education,8(2), 30–42.
Hollis, R. B., & Was, C. A. (2016). Mind wandering, control failures, and social media distractions in online learning. Learning and Instruction,42, 104–112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.01.007.
Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Walker, J. M. T., Sandler, H. M., Whetsel, D., Green, C. L., Wilkins, A. S., et al. (2005). Why do parents become involved? Research findings and implications. The Elementary School Journal,106(2), 105–130.
Hughes, J. N., Luo, W., Kwok, O.-M., & Loyd, L. K. (2008). Teacher-student support, effortful engagement, and achievement: A 3-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology,100(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06188.8.131.52.
International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). (2011). National standards for quality online courses. Vienna, VA. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from http://www.inacol.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/iNACOL_TeachingStandardsv2.pdf.
Kuh, G. D., Jankowski, N., Ikenberry, S. O., & Kinzie, J. (2014). Knowing what students know and can do: The current state of student learning outcomes assessment in U.S. colleges and universities. Champaign, IL: National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from http://www.learningoutcomeassessment.org/documents/2013%20Abridged%20Survey%20Report%20Final.pdf.
Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Buckley, J. A., Bridges, B. K., & Hayek, J. C. (2007). Piecing together the student success puzzle: Research, propositions, and recommendations. ASHE Higher Education Report,32(5), 1–182. https://doi.org/10.1002/aehe.3205.
Lehan, T. J., Hussey, H. D., & Shriner, M. (2018). The influence of academic coaching on persistence in online graduate students. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning,26(3), 289–304. https://doi.org/10.1080/13611267.2018.1511949.
Lokey-Vega, A., Jorrín-Abellán, I. M., & Pourreau, L. (2018). Theoretical perspectives in K-12 online learning. In K. Kennedy & R. Ferdig (Eds.), Handbook of research on K-12 online and blended learning (2nd ed., pp. 403–422). ETC Press. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from http://press.etc.cmu.edu/index.php/product/handbook-of-research-on-k-12-and-blending-learning-second-edition/.
Lowes, S., & Lin, P. (2015). Learning to learn online: Using locus of control to help students become successful online learners. Journal of Online Learning Research,1(1), 17–48.
Ludwig-Hardman, S., & Dunlap, J. C. (2003). Learner support services for online students: Scaffolding for success. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v4i1.131.
Macfarlane, B., & Tomlinson, M. (2017). Critical and alternative perspectives on student engagement. Higher Education Policy,30(1), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41307-016-0026-4.
Maitland, C., & Obeysekare, E. (2015). The creation of capital through an ICT-based learning program: A case study of MOOC camp. In Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development. Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1145/2737856.2738024.
Martin, K. A., Goldwasser, M. M., & Galentino, R. (2017). Impact of cohort bonds on student satisfaction and engagement. Current Issues in Education,19(3), 1–14.
McClendon, C., Massey Neugebauer, R., & King, A. (2017). Grit, growth mindset, and deliberate practice in online learning. Journal of Instructional Research,6, 8–17.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education: Revised and expanded from case study research in education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Michinov, N., Brunot, S., Bohec, O. Le, Juhel, J., & Delaval, M. (2011). Procrastination, participation, and performance in online learning environments. Computers & Education,56, 243–252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2010.07.025.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record,108(6), 1017–1054.
Moore, M. G. (1980). Independent study. In R. Boyd & J. Apps (Eds.), Redefining the discipline of adult education (pp. 16–31). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Moore, M. G. (1989). Three types of interaction [Editorial]. American Journal of Distance Education,3(2), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923648909526659.
Mountford-Zimdars, A., Sabri, D., Moore, J., Sanders, J., Jones, S., & Higham, L. (2015). Causes of differences in student outcomes [White paper]. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from King’s College London: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/23653/1/HEFCE2015_diffout.pdf.
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Oldfield, J., Rodwell, J., Curry, L., & Marks, G. (2019). A face in a sea of faces: Exploring university students’ reasons for non-attendance to teaching sessions. Journal of Further and Higher Education,43(4), 443–452. https://doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2017.1363387.
Oviatt, D., Graham, C. R., Borup, J., & Davies, R. S. (2016). Online student perceptions of the need for a proximate community of engagement at an independent study program. Journal of Online Learning Research,2(4), 333–365.
Oviatt, D. R., Graham, C. R., Davies, R. S., & Borup, J. (2018). Online student use of a proximate community of engagement in an independent study program. Online Learning,22(1), 223–251.
Repetto, J., Cavanaugh, C., Wayer, N., & Liu, F. (2010). Virtual high schools: Improving outcomes for students with disabilities. Quarterly Review of Distance Education,11(2), 91–104.
Reschly, A. L., & Christenson, S. L. (2012). Jingle, jangle, and conceptual haziness: Evolution and future directions of the engagement construct. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 3–19). New York: Springer.
Roblyer, M. D., Freeman, J., Stabler, M., & Schneidmiler, J. (2007). External evaluation of the Alabama ACCESS initiative phase 3 report. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from http://accessdl.state.al.us/2006Evaluation.pdf.
Roksa, J., & Kinsley, P. (2018). The role of family support in facilitating academic success of low-income students. Research in Higher Education,60(4), 415–436. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-018-9517-z.
Roorda, D. L., Koomen, H. M. Y., Split, J. L., & Oort, F. J. (2011). The influence of affective teacher-student relationships on students’ school engagement and achievement: A meta-analytic approach. Review of Educational Research,81(4), 493–529. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654311421793.
Rose, R. M., Smith, A., Johnson, K., & Glick, D. (2015). Ensuring equitable access in online and blended learning. In T. Clark & M. K. Barbour (Eds.), Online, blended, and distance education in schools: Building successful programs (pp. 71–83). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Rovai, A. P. (2003). In search of higher persistence rates in distance education online programs. Internet and Higher Education,6, 1–16.
Seaman, J. E., Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade increase: Tracking distance education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED580852.
Shephard, K. (2008). Higher education for sustainability: Seeking affective learning outcomes. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education,9(1), 87–98. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676370810842201.
Skinner, E., Furrer, C., Marchand, G., & Kindermann, T. (2008). Engagement and disaffection in the classroom: Part of a larger motivational dynamic? Journal of Educational Psychology,100(4), 765–781. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012840.
Skinner, E. A., & Pitzer, J. R. (2012). Developmental dynamics of student engagement, coping, and everyday resilience. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 21–44). Boston, MA: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_2.
Skinner, E. A., Wellborn, J. G., & Connell, J. P. (1990). What it takes to do well in school and whether I’ve got it: A process model of perceived control and children’s engagement and achievement in school. Journal of Educational Psychology,82(1), 22–32. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-06184.108.40.206.
Spring, K. J. K. (2018). Academic Communities of Engagement and Their Influence on Student Engagement (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University.
Stake, R. E. (2010). Qualitative research: Studying how things work. New York: Guilford Press.
Su, J., & Waugh, M. L. (2018). Online student persistence or attrition: Observations related to expectations, preferences, and outcomes. Journal of Interactive Online Learning,16(1), 63–79.
Symeonides, R., & Childs, C. (2015). The personal experience of online learning: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Computers in Human Behavior,51, 539–545. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.05.015.
Taylor, S., Clements, P., Heppen, J., Rickles, J., Sorensen, N., Walters, K., …, Micheiman, V. (2016). Getting back on track: The role of in-person instructional support for students taking online credit recovery (Research Brief 2). Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://www.air.org/system/files/downloads/report/In-Person-Support-Credit-Recovery.pdf.
Trowler, V. (2010). Student engagement literature review [White Paper]. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from The Higher Education Academy: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_url?url=https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6d0c/5f9444fc4e92cca76fe9f426bd107e837a9f.pdf&hl=en&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm3WmhAV9GCJ8rx8hzFi9SZoBMiOYw&nossl=1&oi=scholarr.
Tze, V. M. C., Daniels, L. M., & Klassen, R. M. (2016). Evaluating the relationship between boredom and academic outcomes: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review,28, 119–144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-015-9301-y.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, Ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K-12 online and blended Learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59381b9a17bffc68bf625df4/t/5949b5db725e25cad52277e2/1498002924767/KeepingPace+2012.pdf/.
Wefald, A. J., & Downey, R. G. (2009). Construct dimensionality of engagement and its relation with satisfaction. The Journal of Psychology,143(1), 91–112. https://doi.org/10.3200/JRLP.143.1.91-112.
Whetten, D. A. (1989). What constitutes a theoretical dontribution? The Academy of Management Review,14(4), 490–495. https://doi.org/10.2307/258554.
Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy–value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology,25, 68–81. https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1015.
Zimmerman, B. J., & Kitsantas, A. (1997). Developmental phases in self-regulation: Shifting from process goals to outcome goals. Journal of Educational Psychology,89(1), 29–36. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-06220.127.116.11.
Research involved in human or animal rights
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors and no informed consent was necessary. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Borup, J., Graham, C.R., West, R.E. et al. Academic Communities of Engagement: an expansive lens for examining support structures in blended and online learning. Education Tech Research Dev (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09744-x
- Online learning
- Blended learning
- Student support
- Student engagement
- Zone of proximal development