So, right now I am co-facilitating the Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Fundamentals course at Camosun.  And this first week our participants had a full plate of orienting themselves to the online FLO environment, learning how to make video introductions, learning about their co-participants, AND engaging in a couple of lively discussions around online community.

I thought I would take a moment to share a summary/synthesis of the conversation in the Defining Online Community discussion, which was one of their activities this week, as well as add a few additional optional resources you may want to explore.

Some common ideas that leapt out at me in the discussions around what online community is:

  • Conversation/communication
  • Participation and interaction
  • Supportiveness, comfort, safety, trust
  • Co-operation, contributing, and sharing (shared knowledge space)
  • Co-creation and collaboration
  • Growing circle of knowledge/building of knowledge (peer to peer learning)
  • Interconnecting/convergence
  • Common interest, purpose, working together to meet common goals
  • Inclusiveness and belonging, connection
  • Diversity of people coming together to build knowledge (not bound by geography/fewer borders)
  • Mix of learning and social

Certainly, like any community, online community is about all these things. The question then becomes how do we create an online community with/for our learners that helps them balance the benefits of an online learning community with the pitfalls of being too connected (leading to exhaustion and stress), or feeling isolate and disconnected, or just having too many choices you don’t know where to turn.

I don’t have easy answers to this. Some participants talked about starting small – both with the amount of technology you use, and also with the kinds of activities you integrate (i.e., a lot of online group work can lead to stress, both from an exhausted by being online all the time perspective, and a trust perspective if you are thrown too soon into a large group project.) I am always happy to talk more about strategies, and have developed some that I present in my Creating Community Online workshop.  If anyone would like more information about this workshop, drop me an email (schudele@camosun.ca).

To close this summary/synthesis, I would like to give you some optional readings on online community specific to the online classroom space.

I hope you all have a great long weekend!

Emily