Learning Communities As A Vital eLearning Component
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3 Examples Of Learning Communities

Let’s take a look at 3 real and hypothetical examples of using learning communities.

  1. Learning Community Over The Clouds (A Hypothetical, Yet Interesting Example).
    You are a passenger in a long-haul flight. There are about 250 people in the same plane and in the same fatiguing environment. It will take about 10 hours to reach your destination. Who knows who sits three rows behind you? Maybe a person with the same interests and passions as you? Maybe somebody you could learn something interesting from or you could inspire? Well; implementing  a solution which could connect people of the same interest, passions, things to discuss, etc., in such an ad hoc community is, from the technical point of view, not a problem at all. It could be great to have a chance to spend the time of flight on having interesting discussion (professionally oriented or not) than just watching a movie or playing games. I think that during inspiring conversation the time of flight could pass like a blink of an eye. Of course, such a solution could present some challenges (e.g. changing seats of passengers), but such a solution could also create a great competitive advantage for an airline (“No more boring, long-haul flights”). As far as I know, there are no such systems yet. It could foster face to face learning based on ad hoc relations supported by technological solutions. From this perspective it could be treated as an eLearning mechanism.
  2. Conference Social Network (Not So Hypothetical).
    You are going to a conference. The event will gather a couple of thousands of people, professionals like you. You will meet some friends from the industry, but most of participants will be strangers to you. Of course, you will meet new acquaintances, exchange some business cards, but building deliberate relations is quite difficult, as such reconnections are usually accidental. As a result, most of the participants of the event will enter into the role of passive listeners. The value of such a conference would be much bigger if people could learn about each other before the event. Find participants with the same needs, passions, and points of interest. Build virtual relations and make appointments. Extend a two or three-day long event to a long term, social experience which lasts weeks before and after the conference. Such solutions are available on the market (check e.g. introNetworks). We could also imagine a situation of using mobile devices and beacons. Such beacons could be informing about and managing points of interest gathering people around a specific idea. Or we could imagine that our smartphone would vibrate when we passed near a certain person hereby, facilitating face to face meetings. Once again; I have proposed a technical solution which could support building learning relations in the real world. Some people would say that this has nothing in common with eLearning: I wouldn't agree with such an opinion, as I tend to treat all mechanisms which technologically support learning as eLearning.
  3. Enterprise Social Network (Real Solutions).
    You are working in a company employing a several hundred of people. You don't know all of your colleagues; of course you can find them in the corporate inventory, but you don't know what they are doing, what they are specializing in, what passions they have, etc. You are close with your team and build your efficiency of experiences, competencies, and know-how of yours and your close relations. But what about the valuable insights of colleagues who are working at other floors of your office or in other locations? Enterprise Social Network solutions could help. The main goal of introducing them into the organization is to manage the flow of valuable information between employees. To let them collaborate, share, and better know each other. To let them learn in the peer-to-peer model. There are many solutions like that available on the market (check e.g. Yammer). Well; can we treat such a model of learning as eLearning? According to my own definition of that term, definitely yes.

Final Thoughts

People tend to organize themselves from bottom-up. Computer networks, since their beginning, have brought new possibilities in this field. 25 years ago members of the new-born network community had been using BBS (Bulletin Board Systems). After that we had a chance to connect via threaded discussions, wikis, chats, instant messengers, etc. Many of them were created to build and maintain remote relations.

Nowadays, understanding the value of face to face relations in the learning function, it is time to use technology in another way which will connect people in both virtual and real interactions.

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