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Building the Learning Community. The Power of Online Learning November 17, 2005. Lawrence C. Ragan Steven Tello. Program Agenda. Introductions Key Concepts Balancing Expectations Learning Communities Community of Practice Community Context Community Building Strategies. Introductions.

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building the learning community

Building the Learning Community

The Power of Online Learning

November 17, 2005

Lawrence C. Ragan

Steven Tello

program agenda
Program Agenda
  • Introductions
  • Key Concepts
  • Balancing Expectations
  • Learning Communities
  • Community of Practice
  • Community Context
  • Community Building Strategies
  • Session presenters and participants
  • Who, where
  • Show of hands--experience levels??
program description
Program Description
  • Provide participants with the opportunity to share ideas and experiences on how to build learning communities within the teaching and learning process. Discussion will focus on how individual experiences can contribute to development of principles and standards of practice

Learning Communities

Community of Practice

Institutionally created


Experience in Domain

Shared Knowledge

Shared Knowing


Critical Mass

Emerging User-need



Degree of Structure

learning communities what are they
Learning Communities: What are they?
  • “Groups of people engaged in intellectual interaction for the purpose of learning” Cross, 1998
  • “A relatively small group that may include students, teachers, administrators and others who have a clear sense of membership, common goals and opportunity for extensive face-to-face interaction.” Baker, 1999
  • “ a kind of co-registration or block scheduling that enables students to take courses together.” Tinto, 1998
  • A group of people organized around common goals and purpose and committed to learning with and from each other.
  • Shared Knowledge • Shared Knowing
student learning communities
Student Learning Communities
  • SLC examined in depth on FTF Campus environment
  • Formed primarily around course sequences or programs of study
  • Benefits include
    • Increased depth of learning
    • Improved persistence/retention
    • Promote collaborative learning techniques
    • Extend learning beyond classroom
    • Expand student support circle
student learning communities1
Student Learning Communities
  • Paired/Clustered Courses
    • 2 - 4 individual courses, clustered around a theme
    • Typically includes writing course and seminar
    • Often oriented toward freshman
  • Large Course Cohorts (Freshman Interest Groups)
    • Large lecture paired with smaller recitation/discussion
    • Often include writing course & FIG seminar
  • Team-Taught Programs
    • Interdisciplinary teams with curricular focus
    • Semester to Year duration
  • Residence-Based Program
    • Organize student cohorts, grouped around curriculum & purpose
    • Activities & sometimes courses within residence halls.
syracuse u management learning community
Syracuse U. - Management Learning Community
  • Freshman program for Management majors
  • Three courses
    • Intro. to Management
    • Intro. to Writing
    • Learning Community Seminar
  • Common floor in residence hall
  • Team projects & activities
    • Academic
    • Team building
uma commonwealth college
UMA-Commonwealth College

uma commonwealth college1
UMA-Commonwealth College
  • UMass Amherst Honors College
  • Focus on:
    • Academic Achievement
    • Service Learning
    • Freshman Social Network
  • Honors floor in several residence halls, grouped by major & interests
  • Open to range of majors
learning community pedagogy
Learning Community Pedagogy

Laufgraben & Tompkins, 2004; Finkel,2000

impact for non student groups
Impact for Non-student Groups
  • “while we are willing to recognize the importance of shared learning among our students, we sometimes fail to recognize the need to become shared learners as well.” Tinto
  • Learning communities can serve as a Change Force on campuses, challenging established academic and administrative policies and procedures.
  • Is this beginning to sound familiar?
faculty learning communities
Faculty Learning Communities
  • A faculty learning community (FLC) is a cross-disciplinary faculty and staff group of size 6-15 (8 to 12 is the recommended size) engaging in an active, collaborative, yearlong program with a curriculum about enhancing teaching and learning and with frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, development, interdisciplinarity, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and community building. Milton D. Cox

types of flc cox
Types of FLC (Cox)
  • Context or topic-based
    • Address a special campus teaching and learning need, issue, or opportunity
    • Designed to address special academic interests or common interests.
    • Teaching Portfolio Development, Integrating Technology into the Case Method, Integrating Arts & the Curriculum
  • Cohort-based
    • Address the teaching, learning, and developmental needs of an important cohort of faculty or staff .
    • Designed to address a broad range of issues affecting their situation.
    • Graduate Faculty Circle or Senior Faculty Fellows
miami university of ohio
Miami University of Ohio

miami university of ohio1
Miami University of Ohio
  • 96 Faculty Learning Communities since 1979
  • Hesburgh Award for faculty development
  • Competitive participation process, often includes stipend
  • Guides policy and practice
western carolina university
Western Carolina University

characteristics of learning communities cox
Characteristics of Learning Communities (Cox)
  • Safety and Trust
  • Openness
  • Respect – members feel valued & respected
  • Responsiveness – engendered/moderated by facilitator
  • Collaboration- in both creation & consultation
  • Relevance – relationship to participants academic life
  • Challenge – high expectations for quality of outcomes
  • Enjoyment - activities must include social opportunities
  • Esprit de Corps - Sharing individual and community outcomes with colleagues
  • Empowerment - A sense that activity is focused around a crucial element and a desired outcome
activity learning community contexts
Activity: Learning Community Contexts
  • In groups, please identify a learning community familiar to you and your collaborators. Select one among the group and then identify:
    • Type of Learning Community
    • Context (institution, program, purpose)
    • Characteristics
  • Can you identify other types of LCs?
table discussion
Table Discussion
  • Examples of Learning Communities:
  • Table 1--faculty LCs--discussion of challenges (time, motivation, accessibility, ease of use, priority management, recognition, credit)
  • Table 2--Virtual Faculty LC--
  • Table 3--concerned about the assessment of the process rather than the outcomes
community of practice cop

Community of Practice (CoP)

Communities of practice develop around things that matter to people.

E. Wenger

  • CoPs have been around as a field of study for a long time
  • Corporate/business has recognized and valued CoPS as a nature of managing within an increasingly complex and information driven environment
    • IBM Global Services experience
    • Knowledge Networks and Communities of Practice
    • Learning as a Social System
    • Collective learning and collective memory
    •,,, SharePoint
  • Overlap with field of education (Passmore example: self-organizing groups)
community of practice
Community of Practice
  • Communities of practice (CoP) are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
        • Etienne (ATN) Wenger and others
three essential elements
Three Essential Elements
  • The domain:

(A CoP) has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people.

three essential elements1
Three Essential Elements
  • The practice:
    • Members of a CoP develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice. This takes time and sustained interaction.
three essential elements2
Three Essential Elements
  • The community (purposeful relationships):
    • Members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other.
types of cop activities
Types of CoP Activities
  • Problem solving
    • "Can we work on this design and brainstorm some ideas; I’m stuck."
  • Requests for information
    • "Where can I find the code to connect to the server?"
  • Seeking experience
    • "Has anyone dealt with a customer in this situation?"
  • Reusing assets
    • "I have a proposal for a local area network I wrote for a client last year. I can send it to you and you can easily tweak it for this new client."
types of cop activities1
Types of CoP Activities
  • Coordination and synergy
    • "Can we combine our purchases of solvent to achieve bulk discounts?"
  • Discussing developments
    • "What do you think of the new CAD system? Does it really help?"
  • Documentation projects
    • "We have faced this problem five times now. Let us write it down once and for all."
  • Visits
    • "Can we come and see your after-school program? We need to establish one in our city."
  • Mapping knowledge and identifying gaps
    • "Who knows what, and what are we missing? What other groups should we connect with?"
activity cop contexts
Activity: CoP Contexts
  • Group Think: Identify examples of community of practice.
    • Type of Community of Practice
      • Digital Artists - Forum driven, learning tools, experienceUser groups, SIGs
      • Professional Associations
      • OpenSource Community
      • Study Group - dynamic, user-driven
    • Context (institution, program, purpose)
      • Blogs used as technology tool to facilitate CoP
    • Characteristics


User’s groups

Self-help Teams


Program Office

Experience in Domain

Shared Knowledge

Shared Knowing


Critical Mass

Emerging User-need

Freshman Club

Department Discussion group

Virtual Study Groups

College Talk Space




forces along the continuum
Forces along the Continuum
  • Experience in Domain
  • Response to change
  • Shared Knowledge
  • Shared Knowing
  • Time
  • Critical Mass
  • Emerging User-needs
community building strategies
Community Building Strategies
  • Within groups identify either activity sheet for Learning Community or Community of Practice or both
  • EXAMPLES: ANGEL groups, CyberCelebrities
  • 30 Minutes group discussion
  • Report out--
  • (send via email group work)
Learning Community: faculty that teach online
  • Focus on learning and to improve teaching and learning online.
    • Distributive model for sharing B&Experiences
    • Give a month for the outcome
    • Training
    • Defining the outcomes and


Learning Community

Community of Practice


early vs late adopters
Early vs. Late Adopters
  • Study of Online vs. non-online teachers
    • Michele Jacobson and Alanna Edwards University of Calgary
  • Orientation toward technology adoption and change may also impact generation of and participation in CoPs.
  • In comparisons of early adaptors and late adaptors to online teaching
  • Early adaptors may be more prone to developing CoPs where late adaptors may respond more to established
  • Question: Does this phenomenon exist with online learners as well?
lc cop institutional context
LC/CoP Institutional Context
  • Impact of size of audience (number of members within programs vs. institutions)
  • Degree of member coherence (cohort vs. independent)
  • Member proximity (local vs. distributed)
  • Institutional investment (support/value)