#Change11 #CCK12 What does an online community mean to you?

The post on online community attracted my attention. Mark says in his blog:

“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


6 thoughts on “#Change11 #CCK12 What does an online community mean to you?

  1. Hi John,

    In regard to your last question, I have mixed feelings perhaps because of my current context, where I don’t really know many people with similar interests to mine. I learn a lot through interaction and have been fortunate to have encountered like-minded colleagues online.

    However I also need/enjoy F2F interaction for discussions and brainstorming, particularly informal brainstorming (e.g. over coffee or in non-work environment).

    There is collegiality in both contexts yet I don’t think one substitutes the other; to me, they have become complimentary in my learning/inquiring process.

  2. Hi Ana,
    That’s great food for thoughts. Do you find more in-depth and critical discourse in online or face-to-face community? Who would more likely respond to your questions of inquiry?

  3. John,
    One commonality among the various “communities” I belong to is that responding to other members seems natural and without calculation or rehersal as might be the case in a professional relationship. I don’t go to far out of context with my comments but don’t feel like everything said has to be directly on the topic under discussion. Much of this comfort level is encouraged by being, as Ana said above, among like-minded people.

    I wonder if there really are differences in how we perceive each other online as opposed to face to face. A good conversation among interesting people should seem the same regardless of mediating technologies.

    To me, the depth of our ability to know and connect with others is distributed across such a wide spectrum that it’s hard to imagine mere technology as a limiting factor. We decide to participate or decide to not participate and the rest of it just clicks into place.

  4. Hi Scott,
    A good conversation among interesting people should seem the same regardless of mediating technologies. Couldn’t agree more. In online conversation, we might feel more comfortable in expressing ourselves, in sharing our voices, listening and responding to each others with empathy (due to asynchronous connection, allowing time for a reflection of what the others are saying). Online conversation could then be an enriched conversation, as it is not an impulsive act to respond to questions. Would the absence of gestures and signal of tone be an issue to online conversation? May be technology mediation has removed part of the “noises” that are often associated with the empty spaces and null responses in face-to-face conversation. Besides, like-mindedness would remove the “power” and “age, sex, seniority” factors which often are perceived as barriers towards in-depth face-to-face conversation. In other words, one could choose how, when, who and what to share. As you said, we decide to participate or decide to not participate and the rest of it just clicks into place.

  5. Interesting points John but you have said much of what I was going to say in your reply to Scott! In a sense F to F represents an optimum in human communication with many clues present that are absent or distorted in the online experience – not necessarily a bad thing since online communication generally hands the user greater control in mediating the process. (Eg shy introverted learners performing weakly in F to F group discussions can excel in the asynchronous online equivalent given time for reflection.) But it cuts both ways – I suspect that many of us would be perceived quite differently F to F in comparison with online where, even subconsciously, we inevitably disguise or filter characteristics, motives, objectives that are far more difficult to hide in real life. I suspect that for many purposes F to F and online will continue to converge as ‘augmented reality’ develops in all its forms blurring the boundaries and posing yet more tricky problems of ‘identity’, ‘trust’ etc.

  6. Hi Gordon,
    Well said, and I fully agreed with your points: that many of us would be perceived quite differently F to F in comparison with online where, even subconsciously, we inevitably disguise or filter characteristics, motives, objectives that are far more difficult to hide in real life. Online conversation may help in bridging any gaps in F2F conversation where one is too shy to ask. Identity and trust is tricky, but this would likely be opened up with further conversation and exchanges. A sense of appreciation online could also adds a flavor that is unique in such conversation, I suppose.
    Many thanks.

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