[unrev-II] Thoughts from Discussion of Online Collaborative Learning Communities

From: benay@dara-abrams.com
Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 12:53:56 PST

From: benay@dara-abrams.com

In December, I convened a week-long online discussion among a group of graduate
students on the topic of online collaborative learning communities.
We discussed the differences between online and in-person
community-building and community maintenance. One participant pointed out
that during our online discussion, there was lots of valuable content but no

I am participating in this colloquium in person. However, I was away on business
last week, so I attended last week's session via the Webcast. I noticed that I
was able to get the information via the Webcast, but when I heard the laughter,
I didn't really appreciate the humor. The participant who suggested including
humor in our online discussion as a way to build community feeling
at one point asked each of us what we had eaten for dinner.
He pointed out that we often "break bread" together when we are establishing
relationships and building communities. The reception after the first session
allowed us those of us who are participating in-person to get to know other
members of the colloquium, but what about those who are participating online?
During our online discussion, one participant mentioned the need for
cyber-coffee breaks since people get to know each other and often
engage in even more important discussions during the coffee breaks.

Another important part of our online discussion revolved around the need for
establishing trust to build an ongoing learning community. Along with trust,
we discussed the need for basic ground rules for the community. Perhaps,
these ground rules can address the flaming issue that arises in some
online communities.

Another suggestion that one participant made was that we introduce
ourselves as we would do in an in-person work environment. We had
done some introductions at the beginning of our week-long discussion,
but this participant felt that it might help to do even more, perhaps
post individual photographs and provide more background information
on ourselves. People felt that they were much more apt to actively
contribute to an online community if they knew the other participants
in some way.

If we are going to work together in a NIC that we are building
out of the colloquium, would it help to introduce ourselves in some
way? Organizational development people state that groups need to
resolve the membership issue before they can do real work.


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