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Vol. 8, No. 1: September 17, 2001

"Virtual" Issues of Relationship and Community
An Issue-Focused Dialogue White Paper
Virtual Pedagogy Conference, UW Oshkosh, July18, 2001
Facilitated by M. Kayt Sunwood, Director
UW-Superior Faculty Development Center

An initial issue for this group centered around exploring understandings of the terms: community, relationship, learning, and learning community.

One resource that weaved these terms together from the outset was Learning Through Social Interactions (Online Communities) (.pdf file from ELearningpost). This paper tells us:

One aspect that characterizes communities is the nature of the social interactions between members of the community. People form communities to pursue shared goals or ideals. In the act of pursuing these goals and ideals, they form relationships. It is the nature of the social interactions through these relationships that sustains the community, or in the case of a community of learners, sustains learning. (p. 2)

In addition to the above citation, our group drew from the following sources and definitions:

Our group discussed and debated the definitions, meanings, possibilities, and implications that "virtual"
relationship and community have for those of us in higher education. The following are our answers (or, in many cases, questions) addressing the dialogue session topics:

Key Issues

Before a discussion can take place on "virtual" issues of relationship and community, definitions of learning, community, learning community, and relationship must be explored. Is community beneficial or necessary to learning? Are there other possibilities for teaching and learning "beyond" community? To what extent do we need to make "virtual" community the same as "face-to-face" community?

Areas of Consensus

Participants in this session agreed on the following:

  • Relationship and/or community provide a great(er) potential for learning to occur.
  • We can build a virtual/learning community.
  • The "context" of community is an essential issue to consider. In other words, the type of community one builds or facilitates might depend on the goals and objectives one wishes to reach in/through community.

Areas Where Consensus Was Not Reached

Participants did not come to agreement on the following issue:

  • Community is a necessary requisite for learning.

Suggestions for Further Discussion/Research

  • Further studies and gathering of information on community, and community in learning.
  • The differences between teaching and learning, and the importance of making this distinction as we deal with the issues of relationship and community.
  • Evaluation and questioning of the role the corporate world plays in the academic environment, especially the power of corporate interests in shaping the discussion on community and learning communities.

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