Creating a welcoming learning community is vital to students' success online, delegates at next week's e-learning conference in Manchester will hear, writes Alison Goddard.
Students work well in small groups - but they can still be intimidated by other group members, according to research to be presented at the conference.
Jonathan Darby, director of technology-assisted lifelong learning at the University of Oxford, said: "Creating a learning community where students interact and contribute experiences from their own work is one way of supporting each other's learning. You cannot do that with a large group.
"Also, students want to build a personal relationship with their tutors. They would prefer to have a response from their tutor a day late than an instant answer from someone they don't know."
Heather Williams, a postgraduate student at the University of Salford, will also present research at the conference. She said: "We found that e-learners were sensitive to human feedback. A lot of that emanated from the false perception that they get from each other. They thought that the others were better than themselves."