Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Learning communities online.

This post is in response to a blogpost by Sarah Stewart. We have recently been investigating how to use online resources to provide students with a sense of connection and a sense of being a learning community. I think this is what the facilitating online learning communities course we have been working on is all about really. Learning is definitely enhanced through community interaction and I think face to face will always be optimal,how can we help people feel that sense of connection and shared learning when they cannot physically be together in the same space. Do you think we have that sense of community in our facilitating online course? I think it has happened to a degree, but perhaps the sense of a learning community might be greater when the learning goals are also shared to a greater extent. Our course participants have come form a variety of practice areas representing a variety of professional groups and have been participating in the course for a variety of reasons, so perhaps it is quite astonishing that we have managed to achieve a sense of community at all. When we are working with distance students who are working together to learn specific skills towards a shared learning goal perhaps there will be a greater opportunity to develop an online sense of community. I wonder what others feel about this?


Sarah Stewart said...

I spent some time with PhD student had been researching a totally online degree course. What she found was that people did not want to spend time building a community-what they wanted was skills and resources to help them with their learning ie how to use BlackBoard, how to write an essay, how to prepare for exams etc etc. So are we spending too much time discussing how to build a community and not enough time developing practical resources?

Carolyn McIntosh said...

The problem is that, as you identified in your post, so much of our learning is stimulated by interaction with others and being in a community of learners who are sharing similar experiences. Yes we need learning content and yes we need great tools to support the learning experience. If we agree that communities of practice are important and learning communities are important how can we facilitate the opportunities for these to develop for our students?

Sarah Stewart said...

You're not supposed to answer a question with a question!!

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