An initial issue for this group
centered around exploring understandings of the terms: community,
relationship, learning, and learning community.
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:
- The quote "Learning
is a remarkable social process. Social groups provide the resources
for their members to learn" (Brown, John Seely, and Duguid, Paul,
Social Life of Information. Harvard Business School Press, p. 137).
- Howard Rheingold's Face-to-Face
with Virtual Communities, from the July 2000 issue of Syllabus
Magazine that speaks of, and asks questions about, virtual communities
report How People Learn:
Bridging Research and Practice.
- Learning community as defined
Community: A Definition: "a group of students and at least
one educator who, for a while and motivated by common vision and will,
are engaged in the pursuit of acquiring knowledge, abilities and attitudes."
- A white paper titled The
Next Generation of Teacher Online Learning: A Developmental Continuum,
in which the authors suggest we are moving to "reconceptualize
the classroom as a learning community, one in which members may be,
partly or totally, physically or virtually present."
- Models of "virtual
community" for educators online, including The
Global Educators' Network, the TeleLearning
Research Network, and Technology
for Advanced Collaborative Teaching (TACT). These organizations
and groups offer opportunities to benefit from and engage in vital research
on virtual learning and cybercommunity.
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:
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
- 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
Participants did not come
to agreement on the following issue:
- Community is a necessary
requisite for learning.
Suggestions for Further
- Further studies and gathering
of information on community, and community in learning.
differences between teaching and learning, and the importance
of making this distinction as we deal with the issues of relationship
- 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.