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.
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
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:
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:
(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).
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.
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:
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)
If any of my readers are (or know any) maths or science students who use assistive software or other assistive technology, I would love to hear from them to get their views and experiences of this. Please do get in touch - comment on any of my posts about accessibility and I'll get back to you!