This week’s topic brought to our PBL discussion the issue of defining a learning community, and most importantly, in our role as teachers, on how to lead a learning community. My personal belief is that new technologies are profoundly changing how learning communities operate, pushing to a higher degree of collaboration, while at the same time, for a higher need of individual competence and self-motivation to participate. The reason for the second trait is that as we progressively push learning communities toward networked models of learning, we displace the sociality of those communities to the individual spaces of each member. This means that the potential issue of optimally functioning learning communities lies more on the engagement of the learner than ever.
So how do we provide the best structure for our networked learning communities’ members? Well, I am afraid we never came to a conclusion. But there were a few good points drawn for Self-Determination Theory (SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 1985) plus some other additions emerging from the networked aspect of modern online learning communities.
From SDT, we learn that for people to be motivated and engaged in an activity, they should experience a sense of mastery (knowing they are getting better at learning), autonomy (feeling that they are capable of make decisions in the way they learn), and relatedness (being part of a bigger learning experience than that of their own). This would entail finding ways in which we could visualize their progress, chose how to move forward, and understand that the community offers synnergistic advantages to higher standards of learning would be highly beneficial.
On the technologic aspect, it is almost imperative to provide a localized platform that offers a place for that diminished sociality. Establishing a place where to meet, where to find all the content, and where to engage, will help empower and enable students to continue learning. This will allow them to bring their knowledge and access the knowledge of others in the courses in the online medium. Such a plaftorm tends to provide social and collaboration features.
Of course, that alone is not sufficient to foster engagement, but it should put the cornerstone for any instructor and facilitator to set the networked space for a learning community to flourish.