Saturday, October 25, 2014

E-Learners of the Future--Tip #3- The Need for a Sense of Community

In the last post, it was suggested that developing communication skill sets that are in line with the online environment is not only a necessity but also carries with it a responsibility on the part of students, instructors and mentors to make it a priority. Communication is key to developing a sense of community.

As active as social media is, it is still very easy for students to feel isolated or only superficially connected with others. This explains in part the phenomenon of what we call "the lurker" who is a person who accesses sites and reads but never introduces themselves or contributes to the discussions. There is a need to see online education evolve so that a sense of community is created for the participants and learning networks help define the community of learners.


Learning networks will shift more and more to the online world which will offer many opportunities that may have been available to some degree in the traditional model but now are expanded on a global scale.
One of the growing problems with online education organizations and what they offer is the fact that less emphasis is placed on creating a community of learners and more emphasis is placed on students as being consumers. We see this in how students approach online learning. The attitude could be described as "buffet style education" where students register with an organization, shop for what they want and then leave. If we want to establish e-learners as creators of new knowledge and skills with a new powerful purpose, you can see that this attitude is counter productive to the powerful purpose. This approach emphasizes the commercial market perspective where students are treated as customers. This is a remnant of the old model of education, the Industrial Model, where the purpose was to create life long consumers.

Linden Labs, the creators of the virtual world "Second Life" had the right idea at its creation which was to create a community for interaction among learners. We can learn from their successes and their failures when it comes to creating a sense of community in online education.

Credit: Stuart Miles

So, how can we go about creating a sense of community among students who register with an online organization? How can we incorporate the new powerful purpose into the design of the learning experiences that emphasize this new attitude of a collaborative learning community?

I have an idea! I will detail a practical concept that might allow us to develop this attitude among learners at the very start when they register with an online organization to further their education.
This will be my focus in my next post....

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