Learning in network and communities

Ren, Kraut and & Kiesler (2007) define online communities as those groups of individuals with a common interest and goal interacting via internet enabled tools where each participant might have a membership subscription. Since its introduction, internet has taken a big role in facilitating people to learn online. Online communities are formed based on a number of reasons and people adhere to any online community from around the world. A good example is the ONL community where learners and course facilitators are connected via a range of digital tools. With this environment, group-based learning is facilitated and encouraged.

When designing online learning environments, one has to consider inclusivity of different learners’ categories. For example, students with disability, low digital literacies, remote areas versus urban areas. Hence it relies in our responsibilities as teachers to ensure that groups in the learning communities achieve their learning goals. For example, we should design our courses in the manner that allow and encourage individual learners to work together as a group.

With online learning communities there can both advantages and disadvantages (Gannon-Leary & Fontainha, 2007). For example, in the earlier attended course, we have identified some disadvantages of online learning communities. Among them:

  • Lack of physical traces: Having not met and learned together before, people can become members of an online community. Therefore, there is a high risk of misunderstanding which makes it also hard to collaborate via online.
  • Overburden: There is a large volume of information exchanged and digital tools available, which makes community members anxious and to some extent stunned.
  • Detachment background: In some cases, community members prefer to learn on their own without group participation (individual preferences). Hence, these learners are not open to welcome online participation from peers. The point is that such kind of online environment and opens does not go along with their cultures and values.

But still as we have seen in this ONL course, there is no point of avoiding learning in communities as this has many advantages as well.

For example, I have benefited a lot in terms of new tools that were introduced me to enable online learning collaboration. Some of these tools will be tried out during some of my future courses. It was also good to know about collaboration and cooperation terms in regard to online learning communities. Hence, as teachers of today, we have a great responsibility to ensure that learners in online communities are experiencing a positive collaborative learning environment that enables individual learning experience.

By concluding this blog, in an online network or learning community, individual participation tends mostly to be unfairly distributed among members. Hence, to avoid this, course facilitators must ensure that all participants in the course progress are unbiased. For example, the online management systems or any other digital tools adopted by the online community might be designed as user-friendly platforms with zero effort participation. Likewise, learning activities such as assignments, reading, group discussions should be designed in the same way that encourage individual involvement and contribution. Together, we need to fill that we are a learning resource for each other.

Gannon-Leary, P., & Fontainha, E. (2007). Communities of Practice and virtual learning communities: benefits, barriers and success factors. Barriers and Success Factors. eLearning Papers, (5).

Ren, Y., Kraut, R., & Kiesler, S. (2007). Applying common identity and bond theory to design of online communities. Organization studies, 28(3), 377-408.


Towards openness and sharing when learning.

Prior to the ONL Course, I have also participated in another reading course entitled “Networked Learning and Competence Development”. Both these courses opened my mind for reflecting about the current online learning environments when it comes to openness and sharing learning resources. Openness plays an important role for educators to improve quality in course delivery and students learning experiences. This is true as the student-centered learning (SCL) is improved by sharing resources and give the opportunity for leaners to engage in the course learning activities. Not only learners, but also universities and teachers can benefit a lot when openness and sharing of resources are promoted across campuses.

However, in some education contexts, with the advance in information and communication technologies (ICTs), openness continues to be a challenge from the teachers’ side where the later are not willing to enable access to course materials. At university level, some issues related to policies can also hinder the openness process for improving learning.

In this topic, I was happy to get more reflections from peers in my PBL Group about ways, strategies and concerns related to the creation of an open learning environment. As per the discussion we had in our group 5, open education is one of the recommendations from international organisations such as EU and UNESCO for enabling education for all. But when you look at the implementation of this strategy, very few universities, around the world have adapted this recommendation of going open.

To sum up on this topic, being open to the learning community has to be cultivated in our culture (individual preferences) as it is from that mindset that teachers of today will be able to easily share the resources for supporting student-centered learning processes in the current digital learning environment. Universities around the world should encourage openness and sharing of learning resources by creating a related conducive environment.

For example, more specifically regarding this ONL course, the way webinars are recorded and uploaded on YOUTUBE is really a good strategy for openness and sharing resources as it helps a lot for those who may have missed the live sessions to recap.

The Journey Begins

About Topic 1: Online participation and digital literacy

First of all, let me say frankly that this topic 1 was very important for me as it introduced a number of tools that could help teachers of today like me to participate online with less digital literacies. Just as a brief reflection about this topic 1, as I shared with group members weeks ago, in our context, we have several categories of teachers. Some are BBC= “Born Before Computers” while others are “.Com”. The former category includes those teachers who fear to use any type of digital tool due to lack of adequate digital skills. For example, it would be difficult for them if the institution requests them to use tools such as Zoom, Flinga or any other Institutional Learning Management System such as Moodle. Hence their participation in online course delivery is very limited as they resist to use such tools. What, for example, my university has tried to do for those teachers = BBC to avoid fear of going online, was to provide additional training for them before introducing any new digital tool. In addition, these BBC teachers are paired with the .com teachers in one module and within that context, the BBC teachers learn from their module partners on a peer learning process.  


Still on the online participation side, I would also say that it is not only a matter of having or not the digital literacy. In some cases, some individuals’ characteristics can affect their degree of online participation in the course regardless of whether they are digitally literate or not. For example, there are some people who feel uncomfortable when viewed on video such as on Zoom or Adobe Connect. Therefore, by filling uncomfortable by not just those High-Tech tools, but instead by their behaviour, this affect their degree of online participation. 

From the learners’ side, the findings from one study we conducted in 2016 on first-year students at our University, indicated that the more the students previously accessed, used, owned and had a computer-based training, the more they are equipped with digital skills (literacies) to be able to cope within the digital environment (Byungura et al., 2018). But on the other hand, the same results of this study revealed also that even a small number of first-year students with previous access and ownership of digital tools, did not use these digital tools that learning purposes. This entails that being strongly digitally literate does not necessarily mean that you are able to participate in online learning activities. 


Byungura, J. C., Hansson, H., Muparasi, M., & Ruhinda, B. (2018). Familiarity with Technology among First-Year Students in Rwandan Tertiary Education. Electronic Journal of e-Learning16(1), 30-45.




Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


Open Networked Learning Course