“We would like to think of technology as providing a ‘virtual community’, but I think this is mistaken not just because what is created online is not strictly a ‘community’, but it is also mistaken because the picture that is adopted of technology is one which always assumes that individual experience of face-to-face can be replaced by online experience. It can’t. They are fundamentally different entities.”
Is what is created online strictly a community? My view is it depends on what one defines as a community, and the expectations from that of the community. I would argue that the community that is thus created online could be part of the community of individuals, where each person may be morphing along both virtual and face-to-face community at times.
To what extent is a virtual community really blurring the boundary of the online and real-life community? I do think technology has opened up the windows of opportunity of community – with Facebook (ConnectivismEducationLearning) and Change11, Twitter (Change11), Google + and Blogosphere (here on Change11 and here on MOOC).
Photo: Google Image
So networkers may be identifying themselves as a community member in certain virtual networks or “communities” but then such online community may have boundaries and protocols whereby only members may have to “comply” with, in order that membership be sustained.
I reckon many people has adopted the definition of community of practice as:
“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” Wenger, 2005.
There are certain differences in face-to-face community (school and institutions as community) and the online community such as MOOC as shared here.
“I have been thinking long about those three criteria that you mentioned: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire. Based on what I have experienced in MOOC, the COPs evolved over virtual space during and after MOOC do exhibit those criteria within small clusters of COPs where some of the participants were situated. Relating to the learning, meaning, and identity of the members of COP, this is where the landscape of practice – a digital and virtual space where the members visited or resided upon. That’s why I would suggest to reformulate the criteria that are typically used in COP. This would reflect more fully the new and emerging structure of MOOC (as a conglomeration of COPs and Networks) that is evolving, emerging and morphing along the digital landscape, not being bounded by the conventional structures. In other words, the unstructure becomes the structure, and uncourse becomes the course, and finally the unCOPs become the COPs. This is happening in lots of COPs too, where the lifespan of physical COPs are transforming into a blend of COPs, all re-defining the meaning of learning, meaning and identity in new and emerging ways. I would need to restudy the research findings (our CCKs, PLENK2010, and other study) to substantiate such claims. The latest study by Wenger et al could also be used to study such patterns.
I also found that many physical COPs were rather short-lived, and the purposes were ill-defined, with a lot of membership fading at a rapid rate. On the other hand, there have been many successful COPs which continued to grow and develop, but they were likely the ones that could “transform” themselves into new ways of functioning, rather than sticking to the three criteria only.”
I have also elaborated on the community education in MOOC here.
Stephen in his post on knowledge, learning and community says:
“A community relates to its constituent members in several ways. In is the environment within which a person experiences, practices and learns. It is therefore a mechanism whereby the experiences of one person may be replicated by another, through immersion in the same environment.”
In reflection, MOOC could be the ideal new learning platform which would host such a virtual community of learners around the world. This is also the start of their research initiative on online teaching and learning, where we once have undergone in our past MOOCs, and is undertaking in this Change11 MOOC. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see such pattern of massive online course design, delivery with teaching and learning is now being replicated and amplified in Stanford University and MIT initiatives?
I would speculate that their research would tend to go with the scaling up based on automated assessment (grading by computer) and a shift towards more personalisation of learning once communities and networks of learners are built and formed, as more learners would interact with each others, thus forming clusters, groups, collectives, and networks around their focus of interests of study, and beyond, like the MOOC.
Are MOOCs (such as CCK08, CCK09, PLENK2010, Change11, CCK11, LAK12) communities or networks for you? To what extent do you find them a COP?
What does an online community mean to you?
Can individual experience of face-to-face be replaced by online experience? Why?/Why not?
Postscript: Useful reference on COP – Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept by Etienne Wenger