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How Online Communities Enhance Learning

How Online Communities Enhance Learning

By ITWorx Education

achievement gapVast technological advancements taking place worldwide have made us dig deeper into a virtual world that never existed before.

Detractors argue about the disadvantages of such technological leaps, yet, the benefits of these developments continue to push themselves to the forefront, gaining more advocates than naysayers.

Because of this, a digital revolution can be seen in education. Many regions around the world are digitizing their education systems, and thus adopting tools, apps and software that will benefit their schools, teachers and students.

One trend that has proved its effectiveness is the emergence of online communities. Today, you can find online communities for every kind of interest, including travel, art and literature, and learning.

However, the question is: do these bode well for the learning process? Our hypothesis: Yes.

What Are Online Communities?

Let’s start by understanding what online communities actually do in a learning setting. Communities meet through a platform to share knowledge and achieve particular learning objectives. This knowledge can be shared through different content types, such as written text, video or audio. Online discussions and explanations can also be performed within the classroom.

Critics have raised concerns about whether these online communities serve any purpose, other than allowing people to communicate with one another globally, and thus act solely as a social network. Others are asking whether they effectively contribute to the learning progress of students, if so, how.

We believe that learning can be triggered through online communities in a variety of different ways. Here are some examples.

Facilitating International Collaboration

Online communities provide their members, whether students or teachers, the opportunity to act and share knowledge within an international landscape. People from around the globe can join and work together within a bouquet of different cultures, values and beliefs.

For many participants, this might be their first experience to collaborate and have international exposure. Besides, the richness of knowledge, intellectual growth and wisdom accumulated through such online communities is immense.

The learning results, methods and techniques can be exchanged between teachers, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between users.

Increasing Tolerance and Improving Interaction

Collaborating across countries and continents sharpens and sensitizes students’ perception toward other cultures and values. This experience could play a role in shaping students’ character and their future attitude in regard to other ethnicities and stereotyping.

Online communities teach students how to deal, communicate, and negotiate with people of other mindsets and backgrounds to achieve a set objective and produce the best results. This is also true when communicating with other students and teachers in one’s own district or country, building friendships and networks of people.

Bettering Productivity Outcomes

Online communities provide unique resources and assets in the form of collective group knowledge. This alliance of various ideas and experiences leads to higher productivity—more minds tackling one problem—and often an overall better final product.

Consider how you can work with another classroom to create online-community “pen pals” where students break into groups and work on the same project, together, but in two different places.

learning community pillars

How to Effectively Use an Online Community in Your Classroom

For a learning community to function properly, it needs to be built on three important pillars:

  1. The teaching presence, which is all about the design, facilitation and direction to achieve the expected learning outcomes.
  2. The social presence, which reflects the ability of the group members to interact and communicate in a trusted environment.
  3. The cognitive presence stands for the exploration, construction, resolution and confirmation of knowledge and understanding.

Online learning communities bring many advantages to the classroom. In our increasingly globalized and interconnected world, working with online communities is a new of way of learning, interacting and creating, giving students a chance to step out of their classroom without leaving their desk.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_learning_community
http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Community_of_learning
http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/761/building-an-online-learning-community

WRforSchools
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