Online Learning Communities

Driscoll (2000) defines learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…which must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world” (p.11). According to Siemens (2004), formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks (p. 1).

Online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online course through the social interaction in their social presence. Participation, both social and academic, is integral. Without active participation in discussions and other class activities, the learner is not part of the community and does not even exist. The process encourages learner-to-learner engagement where social constructivism allows participants to depends on one another to make meaning. Learners connect to one another to co-create knowledge, a process that transform them to scholars and be reflective on their learning (Palloff & Pratt, 2011). Learners feel the social pressure to succeed, as they feel a part of something larger-an extension of themselves.

People, purpose, and process constitute the main ingredients to online community building. The fundamentals of a learning community require interdependence and reciprocity (Misanchuk & Anderson, 2011) from the participants who have the ability to co-create knowledge. Each learner’s presence is noted and registered in the minds of others, and individual makes a concerted effort to communicate with others in order to exist.

To sustain online learning communities, there is a need to send personal invitation to the learner through e-mail and posting the same in the classroom, have successful orientation with learners prior to the start of the course, present the nature of the course management system (CMS) used, and need to visit the classroom multiple times per day during the first two weeks. The facilitator must set the stage, make the course easy to navigate, make the learning environment conducive for learning, warm and inviting than cold and formal (Palloff & Pratt, 2011).  The facilitator has to define any jargon, make the course easy to navigate, clearly define the purpose of the group, create a distinctive gathering place for the group, promote effective leadership from within, and define norms and a clear code of conduct.

Community building, provides social environments that host learning needs and theories to describe learning principles and processes, for effective online instruction. It is said that behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism seemed to be the three broad learning theories most often utilized in the creation of instructional environment but connectivism, through the medium of multimedia, exemplified the existing theories available to the learner, permeates the social constructivism to build a community of practice and enable learners to be part of the scholars who will never cease to learn. Indeed, “learning must be a way of being – an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups that they employ to try to keep abreast o the surprising, novel, messy, obtrusive, recurring events…” (Vaill,1996).

Formerly, I gained information through books, news, and limited social interactions only, but with Internet, podcast, video, and with blogs, information is readily available for dissemination; learning now occurs in a variety of ways through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks (Siemens, 2004).  These days I gain new knowledge through set up feeders and question and answer sessions on my computer.  The social networking theories and tools support connectivist-learning activities, and build new and effective e-learning practices.  Connectivism , the social networking, applied to learning and knowledge context can lead to a re-conceptualization of learning in which formal, non-formal and informal learning can be integrated to build a potentially lifelong learning activities to be experienced in my personal learning environments.

In order to provide a guide in the design, development, and improvement, (both of personal learning environments and in the related learning activities), and to become an effective instructor in the future, I will provide a knowledge flow model highlighting the stages of learning and the related enabling conditions. I will provide engaged learning environment where constructivist principles and problem-based learning (Conrad & Donaldson, 2004) would be in the core strategy for facilitating courses. Today, networked learning, collaboration technologies, collaborative learning, informal learning, learning 2.0, web 2.0, web 3.0, personal learning environment, wikis, telematic technologies, and blogs contribute effectively towards an e-lifelong learning experience; thus connectivism (a learning theory for the digital age) takes learning to a new height.

References

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2004). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights, MA, Allyn & Bacon.

Misanchuk, M & Anderson, T. (2011). Building community in an online learning environment: communication, cooperation and collaboration. Retrieved from http://frank.mtsu.edu/~itconf/proceed01/19.html

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (2011).  “Online Learning Communities”. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5364570&Survey=1&47=6623504&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm.

Vaill, P. B., (1996). Learning as a Way of Being. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Blass Inc.

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Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 5:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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