Facilitating Online/What is an online community?

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Most people use the phrase "online community" very loosely. You will hear educators use it to refer to communities of practice, classes, groups, professional bodies, teams, networks, you name it - they have all been referred to as communities at some stage, and when they prodimantly operate through the Internet they are called online communities. But what is an online community really - especially if we want to relate the words to their true and common meaning? Is it a group of people who communicate online, and through that connection they share a sense of belonging and responsibility for one another? Is an online community like this necessary for work teams, classes, professional bodies and all those other things that have been called communities? In this course we will be looking for online communities in very different places. It is important that we try and develop an understanding of what exactly we are looking for, and techniques for looking. What is an online community?

To do

1. Look at these links:

  • An anthropological introduction to YouTube - Michael Wesch video presented at the Library of Congress, June 23rd 2008.
  • Groups and Networks video of Stephen Downes 2006. You will need a broadband connection speed to view this video, and I suggest you open the link, press play and then press pause for 10 minutes or so as to let the video load ahead some. Same technique for dial up, but wait much longer on pause.
  • This, That and the Other, by Mark Pesce
  • Building Online Communities - The Internet exists to improve communication. Communities can grow anywhere communication occurs.

2. Referring to at least 2 of the items above, write a post to your blog that summarises what they say about online community. Conclude with your own list of at least 3 forms of evidence that YOU would look for when determining an online community.

3. Give feedback as a comment on the blog post of at least one other person from this course.

4. Attend a meeting to collaboratively develop a list of features to look for when identifying an online community, and to begin a discussion on how such communities would benefit from facilitation services. We will use this list when looking for online communities later in the course. Meeting time and venue TBA

Extra resources