This is the second post in a series of “The Realities of Networked Online Learning Communities”. In case you missed the first post of Why should we consider Networked Online Learning Communities?
Now that we have seen Online Learning Communities gaining importance, Let us understand what does it really mean?
An online learning community(OLC) is a webased learning environment replete with the latest digital technologies where interconnected learning participants communicate, collaboratively construct their knowledge, and share their personal experiences (Palloff & Pratt, 1999; Preece, 2000; Richardson, 2006)
A virtual or online learning community is not just an online platform for people to visit and chat, it’s a community wherein a group of people having common interests can join, share their knowledge and learn from each other. These communities are driven by a desire and necessity to share problems, experiences, insights and solutions.
To be termed as a true virtual or online learning community, it has to exhibit the following features or allow
- Active interaction between learners, involving both course content and personal communication.
- Collaborative learning evidenced by comments between the group of learners
- Socially constructed meaning or solution evidenced by questioning or discussing
- Sharing of personalized resources among learners
- Expressions of support and encouragement exchanged between learners and willingness to critically evaluate the work of other learners.
Therefore, an Online learning community is not a website or space for social networking; it comes with professional objectives and similar working groups. It is not static; it is an interactive media of communication for information exchange and social communication. It also acts as a repository for guidance, thought leadership, resources and expert support.
This collaborative platform allows learners to come together and have discussions to strengthen their ideas or ways utilizing both their skills and learning from each other. Exchanging knowledge and taking feedback with someone who has similar responsibilities and experience is ideal for adult learners. They can also be customized to suit learners group that is involved and the organizational environment.
Knowledge comes with teamwork and sharing and such communication results in the enhanced learning. Undoubtedly Online Learning communities have opened doors for collaborative learning offering a digital platform wherein group of learners can join, share, and learn things at a faster pace(forums and discussion boards) and social learning facilitating the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn etc.
Enjoyed what you read? This is the second post in a series of “The Realities of Networked Online Learning Communities” and the next will address the How do Online Learning Communities enhance the effectiveness of learning.