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Communities are critical to learning...more so online than in a classroom. Online, student's increased sense of "disconnectedness" can be addressed through a community of learners. A large part of learning in a classroom comes from peers. Online, peer contact is reduced. A community can help to foster dialogue and learning between students.

Few concepts are more important in learning than communities...yet different view points exist about the definition of a community. Does community happen during a semester course? Does a community need more time to evolve - like in a Masters (or other multi-year program)? Or is a community most effective when it provides informal learning - like slashdot?

Communities are at the heart of civilization, society, organizations, and learning. Through communities we have the opportunity to contrast our own views against those of others...we grow...we connect...we gain a larger perspective. The core functions of communities are connection and knowledge dispersion.


"The content and technology are continually changing. This article reminds us that learners are also changing. For the past decade, faculty who won awards for teaching expressed concern that they could no longer hold the attention of their students. John Seely Brown, Chief Scientist at Xerox and director of its Palo Alto Research Center, hired 15 year olds to design future work environments and learning environments. He observed that the students did not conform to the traditional image of learners as permissive sponges. It requires us to rethink and redesign education for the Digital Age."
Excellent article - from a visionary in the field of work-learning environments...I love the term "learning ecology".

Great resource site for community development.

"This preliminary study again provides evidence that it is the method and not the media that matters the most in learning effectiveness. The present work examines classroom community in order to determine how sense of community differs between students enrolled in traditional face-to-face and those enrolled in asynchronous learning network (ALN) courses. Subjects consist of 326 adult learners who were enrolled in a mix of 14 undergraduate and graduate courses at two urban universities. As operationalized by the Sense of Classroom Community Index (SCCI), there appears no significant difference in classroom community between the two groups of subjects. However, a discriminant analysis shows a significant overall difference in community structure between the two groups. Variations between groups on feelings of similarity of needs, recognition, importance of learning, connectedness, friendship, thinking critically, safety, acceptance, group identity, and absence of confusion are the characteristics contributing mostly to this difference in learning effectiveness."

Online Self-organizing Social Systems(.pdf file)
"The dualism of "teacher-supports-students" or "automated-system-supports-students" is a false dichotomy. There is another option -- "students-support-each-other.""

Building Sense of Community at a Distance
"This article challenges the belief that strong sense of community is limited to the traditional classroom and proposes that the virtual classroom has the potential of building and sustaining sense of community at levels that are comparable to the traditional classroom. Drawing on research literature, the concept of learning community is applied to the virtual classroom by taking on the issue of how best to design and conduct an online course that fosters community among learners who are physically separated from each other. Course design principles are described that facilitate dialogue and decrease psychological distance, thereby increasing a sense of community among learners."

Creating and Online Community
"Online communities in an educational setting exist, evolve, and are enhanced with communication protocols. Katherine Mieszkowski (2000) defines community as a "market space" that allows people with shared needs to swap ideas, trade experiences, and learn from one another. In the development of such online communities, communication between prospective members of the community is essential – creating avenues of communicating and defining topics that meet the interest and shared needs of an online community’s “residents.”"

Communities of Practice The QUT Approach to Online Teaching
"The focus of the QUT strategy to date has been on activities which foster collaboration. This paper outlines several such activities and describes their purposes, implementation and impacts on the growth and development of the online teaching community in the university. The intention is not to cite this as a model of excellence but rather to provide a case study for this learning community in the ensuing dialogue around the notion of “building communities”."

The Process of Community-Building in Distance Learning Classes (.pdf file)
Evaluates the process of forming communities in asynchronous distance education environments.

If You Build It, They Will Come: Building Learning Communities Through Threaded Discussions
"One of the chief tenets for a successful and engaging online course is the development of an effective system that provides ongoing student interaction. In the book, Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace, authors Palloff and Pratt note, "it is the relationships and interactions among people through which knowledge is primarily generated. The learning community takes on new proportions in this environment and consequently must be nurtured and developed so as to be an effective vehicle for education (p.15)." This type of interaction allows a student to develop their own understanding of the course objectives plus facilitates how this knowledge will be applied in the "real world.""

Communities of practice at the core
"The notion of communities of practice, or CoPs, is at the heart of many epistemological theories of workplace learning. These days, the spotlight is on virtual CoPs, or technology-enabled CoPs. And, thanks largely to the Internet, many CoP solutions exist. But, building and sustaining a CoP takes more than just acquiring the technology. The "build it and they will come", or in this case, "build it and they will share knowledge" attitude completely ignores the fundamentals of human interaction."

"Online learning community has been considered as one of the most important learning concepts in technology-based instructions. Yet online learning community has not been well-defined or well-examined. The social learning process has been suggested as the fundamental factor to examine in an online learning community to ensure online participants and the community will grow and evolve in terms of their knowledge acquisition. Four basic elements and four theoretical constructs in online learning community suggest an ideal theoretical framework for future research. The purpose of this paper is to examine current literature and current research concerning online learning community, to discuss the impacts of online learning communities on human learning, and to propose a theoretical construct for future development of online learning communities."

Something in Common
"Communities of practice are organized groups that bring together experts and other interested parties to circulate and exchange knowledge about a particular field, sometimes called a knowledge domain. Subjects can range from highly specialized technical areas such as information technology or the sciences to broader topics such as customer support and marketing."

Exclusive interview with Amy Jo Kim
"We talk to Amy Jo Kim, author of Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities, on building and sustaining successful learning communities."

Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice
"Because communities of practice are voluntary, what makes them successful over time is their ability to generate enough excitement, relevance, and value to attract and engage members. Although many factors, such as management support or an urgent problem, can inspire a community, nothing can substitute for this sense of aliveness."

12 Principles
"Twelve Principles of Collaboration as a basis for understanding the foundational tenets of virtual community building." See also: 12 Principles of Collaboration - links to extensive white papers based on the principles.

It Takes a Community
" Informal groups known as communities of practice are the latest technique for getting employees to share what they know. Here are seven ways to encourage such communities in your company."

Online Community Technologies and Concepts
"The concept of an online community is very broad. It can be anything from a small close-knit group of people who email each other about a mutual hobby to a mailing list or Web site with thousands and thousands of users. There are thousands of these communities scattered across the Web, covering far too many topics to even attempt to list. Online communities are one of those subjects that encompasses a very wide spectrum of concepts."

"Communispace is a leading provider of web-based software and services that help companies leverage the power of online communities."

"Whether you are trying to support a team, a group, a network, a partnership or a community, we hope to provide you with the capacity to do this in an environment which is simple, non-commercial, respectful of privacy, and targeted at low bandwidth users in the South."


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