The idea of a learning community can be summed up as a group of people who are working together to promote a learning process. A most recent definition of learning communities was created by Wenger, McDermott and Snyder in 2002. “A learning community is a group of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or passion about a topic and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in these areas by interaction with an ongoing process” (Jonassen & Land, 2012, pg 269). Based on the theoretical foundation of Social Constructivism, learning communities also builds on the theories of Social Presence, Social Interdependence, and Self-Directed Learning.
Individuals are the foundations that builds a community from the beginning. When a member joins a learning community, they must have the soft skills of being a self directed learner, self motivation, self efficacy and confidence in their understanding of the context, self regulation. Social Constructivism‘s theorist Vygotsky’s ideas of ZPD (zone of proximal development) and scaffolding are also critical components for learning communities. An individual’s interactions with other learners allows for novice participants to begin at one side of the ZPD continuum and through scaffolding and time will move along to become more of an expert in the process (Jonassen & Land, 2012, pg 273). A participant’s involvement and interactions will influence the sense of connection between other participants involved, building a sense of social presence. In order to have an effective learning community, one must have a sense of connection with members, building social interdependence to create a positive environment for all participants. In all, members of a learning community must understand that their own actions, as well as other’s, will influence the outcome. (Jonassen & Land, 2012, pg 274). Members should share the same purpose, work ethics, and through positive collaboration and cooperation a more effective and meaningful learning community can be sustained. When a learning community contains interactive communication and collaboration, knowledge and learning occurs and a situated learning opportunity has been established.
It is interesting to note that though the previous paragraph discusses the essential theories that builds the idea of learning communities, these are also the critical skills, strategies and techniques that builds effective and rewarding communities. Through careful planning and ongoing facilitation one can build a safe environment the supports an authentic, real world platform for members to transform their own learning opportunities.
The author suggested some thoughts and questions to guide future research on the topic of learning communities. I found the questions of creating transformative learning experiences and whether it was possible to have too many learners in a community intriguing.
- Is it possible to enable transformative learning experiences for members of the learning community?
- What role does culture play in learning community?
- Is it possible to have “too many” learners in a learning community?
- How do we encourage and reward members of the community for the contributions, which are so critical to the learning community?
(Jonassen & Land, 2012, pg 280).
I was able to relate to this chapter in various ways. One, we have a learning community in each of our courses we take through this Master’s Degree. We are self directed learners in a teacher directed learning community. We have the same passion and metacognitive skills to interact. As we start our online Master’s program we may be novices, not really knowing the process yet. However, through continual interactions, we become more comfortable in participating and we end up putting into our on learning, what we put out. We do learn from each other through reading each other’s blog posts and other interactions we are assigned.
I also am relating this to the Professional Learning Networks, informal learning communities, that we build through various Web networks. I am personally members of various communities on Google+, follow people on Twitter, and Facebook, which are all social platforms that I have made connections to learn from and with others. I admit that I only learn from them when I actually go onto the platform. I am a member of certain communities in Google+, but I am not consistently interacting with members. I am not learning as much as I could be if I made it a priority to be on the platform on a regular basis.