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.