This paper presents a framework that supports the analysis, development and maintenance of online and blended communities. This framework is used on two types of communities to ‘help reveal differences and similarities between them’.
Online communities are defined as ‘ a group of people who come together for a particular purpose or to satisfy particular needs; they are guided by formal and/or informal policies and supported by computing technology (Preece, 2000).’
For me, this definition is similar to that perceived or discussed at work and in previous OU courses. Still, I think that this definition is too broad on what the term ‘online’ actually means. The mention is of persons supported by computing technology, thus even persons using together a standalone computer, or a game console, or any type of digital technology may claim to form part of this definition. For me being online would mean that the user/s are using a computer system connected to the internet i.e. cyber space, the web, virtual world, i.e. a type of computer network (more then one computer system connected together).
The authors study how each community from the two case studies was formed and how members interact with each other. It is interesting how the informal setting of the knee injury group results in members which actively help others online. In the formal science teachers case study, the authors report how group members needed a blended environment. If it weren’t for the pub context, the collaboration would have dwindled, if not halted. Meeting at the pub to maintain social cohesion raises challenges for the research methods which may be adopted to track members’ behavious. Such an informal setting may be difficult to analyse. If group members are aware that evidence is being collected in their informal setting, this could jeopardise the group itself, as behaviour may not remain the same. Also researchers would need consent for such data gathering, would this be possible?
As mentioned in my previous posts, such research and the evidence collected is context specific. It is reported that these two case studies are respectively a COI and a COP. Looking back at the studies I have been undertaking at OU, for each course of studies, I have been placed in a group of adult professional learners which may be defined as a COP. Each group of learners in which I have been a member, although having a similar setting but coming to terms with different course content. Each group evolved its own charactheristics and this I think is mostly dependent on the learners forming part of the community and also of the tutor which is acting as a facilitator for the learning taking place. Such distinction between COI and COP may not be so simple as the authors try to depict.
Setting: 2 Case studies
1st case study – a COI Bob’s bulletin board for knee injury patients. Mostly online community. several hundred participants.
2nd case study – Experienced science teachers. clearly defined blended community. around 20 participants. Uses WebCT platform provided through the university.
These two case studies are depicted as two divergent communities lying on both ends of the frameworks ‘spectrum’.
COI – Community of Interest, informal
COP – Community of Practice, formal
informal, lifelong learning (p. 115)
Methods: Case studies of two apparently different learning communities. A framework is developed and used on these two types of communities to ‘help reveal differences and similarities between them’.
Ethics: How are these two communities identified? Why these two particular communities? Were these communities aware of the research and the researchers intentions?
Implications: The usage of technology and the formation of communities (both formal and informal) are context specific. Decision makers need to focus on the context. Simply copy what has been successfull in other settings may be disastrous.
(activity 7.7) From table 1 of Conole et al., Jones and Preece (2006) framework seems to best match two learing theories;
- Socially situated learning – social interaction is an important issue for this framework.
- Experiential – The experiences of members in the community are the foundation for learning.