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Category: An Edinburgh Model for Online Teaching, Module 3: Engaged Learning Communities

Community Memory

Group Working in Online Learning

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Group Work: Video Reflections

Students will find a way to do group work, even online across time zones. They will be designing their own digital creations, organising via email, Skype, and similar applications, screen sharing and sharing films.

Assessments should be designed as much as possible so that they can align with what all the students are doing in their different contexts.

Group work raises the fears of letting the group down, and taking a lot of time. It’s important to set expectations of what is due and when.

If new technology is required, it’s very important to provide good guidance and not assume that all the students will have the required technical skills.

Community word cloud from the online education course

Community Word Cloud

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I’m quite enjoying these word cloud generators they use on the course.

Here’s the word cloud my cohort in ‘The Edinburgh Model for Online Education’ course came up with for Community:

Community word cloud from the online education course

Community, as seen by students of The Edinburgh Model for Online Education

Graphic: Social Media, Internet, Communication, Community

Creating Community Online: Group Project Review

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Well this is ironic. No one else from my group is anywhere to be seen, and the task is this:

In this activity you are going to be working in groups to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities around the size and scale of learning communities, particularly online. In your group discussion area, share a positive and/or a negative example of your experience of being part of an online community (informal or formal). What were the key things that made or make the experience positive or negative? Provide a short overview of your personal experience in your group discussion area. Once you have all posted your entries then, as a group create a list of your:

  • three essentials considerations for positive community building
  • three things to avoid or mitigate when trying to build and sustain a community
Professional Learning Communities in Second Life

Thoughts on Online Community

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Image: Professional Learning Communities in Second Life

Thoughts on Online Community – Reflections on the Video below

Which of these approaches are appropriate to my discipline?
Which would force a redesign of my current teaching practices?

Whatever my thoughts on this, we are all about to find out the answers!

Photo of my CodeClan cohort on graduation day

The 3 ‘C’s: Community, Campus and Cohort

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Good memories of my own learning community: Photo of my CodeClan cohort on graduation day!

Community is about human interaction and participation. The overall design of any module or programme should relate to the three key interlinking areas of community, campus and cohort.

There are lots of overlapping, interrelated issues in teaching and learning, as with most human interactions.


We are relating the three ‘C’s to Leve and Wegner’s (1991, 1998) notions of community of practice and learning as primarily being about social participation. They proposed that for any community of practice there needs to be:

  • a domain: a domain of knowledge creates common ground, inspires members to participate, guides their learning and gives meaning to their actions. I thought this meant their academic subject area but it’s not: it is the campus, ie the digital and physical spaces the university provides for staff and students which provide for a commonality of experience
  • a community: A strong community fosters interactions and encourages a willingness to share ideas. We should be creating a sense of belonging to the University of Edinburgh community with its values, structures, history and culture
  • practice: the practice is the specific focus around which the community develops, shares and maintains its core of knowledge. The students should be able to identify with the community around their particular cohort, through engaging in practice activities together. The students and teachers all need to be able to get to know each other to form this community

The interactive model can be accessed as a diagram with notes here:

Community, Campus and Cohort

Screenshot from Teams

Group Project: Identifying a Communication Channel

Reading Time: 2 minutes

You have been put into pre-determined groups. Throughout this module you will only interact with those group members in the discussion forums and to complete this task. You can use the discussion forum below to introduce yourself and begin the task. You are then encouraged to identify a communication channel that suits your group and will allow you all to contribute toward that task. This might mean setting up your own group Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype or email. The choice is yours!

Sadly, my group never got off the ground, but I did do this activity of looking into communication channels, which meant that at least I got to find out more about Microsoft Teams. So this was my contribution:

Group Project: Developing engagement with community, campus, and cohorts

Reading Time: 3 minutes

(notes – I wish something had come of this, but no one else in my group joined in! I have kept the notes in case I get a chance to give it some more thought later – erhaps when my boss gets to this point in the course).

The Brief:


Encouraging the development of community online generally involves some group dynamic. These could be groups that temporarily assemble around a particular learning activity and then disassemble, peer support networks, study groups, larger class and course networks, social networks, and more. How you foster this group dynamic in your course is up to you, but it is important to see it from the student perspective.

It wasn't the lack of information...

Video Discussion: Thoughts on Campus and Community

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Consider how ideas of community, particularly in higher education, are fueled by a shared set of values. Do these particular values of empathy, wonder, and openness resonate with your communities? With your discipline? With your teaching practices?

Thinking through the communities I identified in my previous post, I think I share the most values with my GITS (GeoSciences IT Services) teammates, and that is probably not that surprising and a good thing for the team, in that we get along together. I like my GITS teammates and consider myself very lucky to share a daily coffee break with them, where they often demonstrate their values of empathy, wonder and openness in generally putting the world to rights.

With the other groups I am part of at work (thinking especially of my office mates, cake club and jogging group (I know, I’m going to have to quit one of those!), I think there is also a shared empathy and general interest in things going well at work.

In the School of GeoSciences, I think the people I have met show a lot of scientific curiosity and inventiveness, openness, and a much higher than average interest in environmental issues, as you would expect.

The later parts of the video, where people are talking about the importance of teaching curiosity and empathy, also reminded me of this meme that I have seen on social media a few times lately:

Photo: School Boards need to do better with their learning communities

Beginning Module 3: Engaged Learning Communities

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Better work on that then…

This module will be about the roles of community in learning. The successful development of learning communities plays a significant role in student engagement and overall success. We need to consider how to develop and foster that sense of community as a key part of the educational design process. Given the distributed nature of online education, we will need to adapt to providing new opportunities for interaction and development of online learning communities.

The Community of Inquiry

The Community of Inquiry framework describes a learning process in which individuals collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding of a subject.

The learning experience is created through the development of three interdependent elements, which are social, cognitive and teaching presence.

Most relevant to the current topic of learning communities is social presence, which is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities.” (Garrison, 2009)

The Community of Inquiry. Image Credit: Rawia Inaim. Adapted from:, via KPU: Learning to Learn Online. Licence: CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike)

Here are some of the communities I am part of at the University:

  • School of GeoSciences (especially today as I notice I have just been assigned to a group activity with the Head of School…)
  • Professional Services within GeoSciences (also more aware of that today as we had our Professional Services Away Day yesterday)
  • GeoSciences IT Services (the GITS) – my team, who I share a coffee break with most days, and really enjoy their conversation and general putting of the world to rights
  • Student Services. I have e-Learning meetings with some of this team, and also share an office with some of them
  • Marketing – I’m not in their team but I share an office with some of them too and enjoy their company
  • The people in my office (though I think I’ve mentioned them all already
  • College of Science and Engineering, which includes GeoSciences. I share a building, bathroom and kitchen with the people that work for the College as a whole but I don’t really know them.
  • King’s Buildings campus. I’ve enjoyed going to the occasional event here and try to make the most I can out of my gym membership here, though it’s not usually as often as I should go!
  • The University as a whole – by far the biggest organisation I’ve ever worked for.
  • My Software Carpentry class – a mixed group of staff and students who attend a computer programming course on Tuesday mornings at the moment
  • And as of recently, my online classmates in this course, who I haven’t met at all, apart from the head of GeoSciences, apparently, who occasionally borrows the desk next to me!


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