Saturday, August 09, 2008

What is an online community?

I'm working with several online communities. As I think about the assignments for the FOC08 course, these communities will provide the examples, active research opportunities and reflection observations. I'm a participant in Facilitating online communities community and the WikiEducator

community, and one of the "moderators" in our Moodle Users Group

  • Facilitating Online Communities course FOC - share interest in subject of facilitating online communities and participate in an online course to learn more individually and as part of the community of learners.
  • WikiEducator WE - broader group looking at creating and sharing open educational resources
  • DeAnza Catalyst Collaboration (Moodle Users) DCC - faculty and staff with access to Catalyst / Moodle interested in learning about and using it for teaching and learning, sharing local practices, relatively new small group within a large college

In the Groups and Networks video, Stephen Downes makes the distinction between a relatively closed group and an open network. Etienne Wenger describes Communities of Practice: Learning as a Social System defined by knowledge rather than by task, and exists because participation has value to its members. In the 12 Principles of Collaboration, groups of interest form within a community.

Okay, so where does this leave us? What's In It For Me? Participation in each of my three communities has value to me, personally and professionally.

  • who - early adopters, thought-leaders in each area are also participants, starting to figure out who some of the key contributors are in addition to Leigh and Bron
  • what - subject matter, knowledge and skills have direct applicability to teaching online college courses and facilitating faculty workshops. I'm in the moderately techie group in the FOC08 community. I have experience and interest in OER development in WikiEducator.
  • how - lively group discussions, first rate wiki content, links to resources that support and extend the knowledge base
  • when / where - anytime, anyplace via email, RSS reader

Anything missing that I care about?

  • potential - great potential for interesting and important contributions to the areas addressed
  • coalescing - all are very much in the formative stages and have yet to reach their full potential and/or a steady state
  • active - coming soon...

Assuming that any or all of these communities have merit and value, there are a number of questions that come to mind. Will these communities live up to their potential? Are there enough participants to keep them going? Is the value there for the participants? Will they attract and sustain new members? How big is big enough for the community to work and continue to provide value? What can be done proactively to ensure their continued success?

I'm looking forward to the postings of other FOC08 participants.

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