Most communities permit lurkers, so learners can get a good sense of the look and feel by watching from the sidelines.
The Experiential Learning Cycle works for me and my online learners.
- four stages which follow from each other: Concrete Experience is followed by Reflection on that experience on a personal basis. This may then be followed by the derivation of general rules describing the experience, or the application of known theories to it (Abstract Conceptualisation), and hence to the construction of ways of modifying the next occurrence of the experience (Active Experimentation), leading in turn to the next Concrete Experience.
The challenge is to provide and guide the concrete learning experiences to kick off the rest of the cycle. The experience includes specific objectives, several different examples, good open-ended prompt questions, reflections posted to a discussion forum so there is modeling (usually good students post first), sharing, questions and feedback.