Model of Formal Virtual Learning Communities

I am happy to share that our vacation from classes is over, and now we are back to the books and studies! Now that I have supposedly had some time off (though work and teaching does not really cease), it is time to again focus on my studies and my research.

One of the readings I did for our internal discussions has really captured my interest. I have previously read this book chapter, though now that I am actively engaging in research in this area, this model of virtual learning communities (VLC) is becoming more present and intentional in my thinking. I like this model for VLCs, with the various elements the authors are recommending:


While I generally think these elements are useful, I wish I could learn a little more about the research that supports there items; this was not included in the chapter, and as a developing researcher, I can’t help but wonder how the authors came up with these, and not others.

What do others think; do these elements fit with your practice and experience?

(Schwier, R. A., & Daniel, B. K. (2008). Implications of a virtual learning model for designing distributed communities of practice in higher education. In C. Kimble, P. Hildreth & I. Bourdon (Eds.), Communities of practice: Creating learning environments for educators (Vol. 2, pp. 347-365). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing)

Research Interest Clarification, 2009

phenomenologyI recently had to re- introduce myself to a colleague regarding where my current research interests are, and I thought it may be interesting to share with a wider audience, as I do get asked to explain what I am interested in (since I cannot oversimplify this, however hard I try).

One of the things I learned about myself in the module at Lancaster I just finished is just how much I love qualitative methods. Not just qualitative studies in my own content areas, but the rich methodological particulars in themselves. Yes, I couldn’t believe it when I first said that a few weeks ago – I knew I was interested in application to practice, but now find myself loving the complexities and issues around selecting, using, and assessing various qualitative methods. I can see myself really exploring this more in itself . . .

Since my background is adult education, I tend to think of myself as an adult educator. I like critical theory and constructivist frameworks, and am fond of Wenger’s Community of Practice model, as well as Jack Mezirow’s Transformative Learning framework. I am a proponent of postmodernity, and as such am interested in identity development, especially in online blogs and other forms of social media where narrative inquiry and autoethnography can be used.

Now, to see how all this can develop toward a thesis direction . . .

Communities of Practice & Learning Focus

CoPIn the Foundations of Communities of Practice (#FCoP09) workshop I am attending, I am learning a lot more about communities of practice than I expected. I was not really sure what to expect in this workshop, though I did anticipate (correctly, it seems) that I would meet a lot of interesting people, some of whom I hope become lasting colleagues.

I had a revelation over the weekend, partly due to a number of questions I asked about communities of practice (CoP) that were answered by Etienne Wenger, the CoP guru (and the one who, along with Jean Lave, coined the term). One of the things I learned in the last week is something I have heard more times than I can count about communities of practice (CoP), though it never sunk in until now.

A community of practice is primarily about learning.

This is a social learning framework, and with the 3 domains necessary for a community of practice (domain, community, practice), it seems they all contribute to the learning, whether the learning is the intentional goal or not.

I never really considered learning to be the focus of a community of practice, and this insight is now worth the price of admission for me. I finally get it . . . I now see how to accurately use this as a research framework, as well as how others have been doing this incorrectly . . .

Foundations of CoP, Week 2

This week in CPsquare’s Foundations of Communities of Practice (CoP) workshop, Etienne Wenger will be facilitating our work around various domain issues, as we break down into smaller communities within the context of our larger community that comprises the workshop.We have already had a whirlwind week with hundreds of community postings. So many of our workshop participants seem so much mre outgoing and extroverted than I am, and while this may not be the case (just like many of our perceptions do not hold the entire story), I do feel a bit overwhelmed with so much activity.

cpsquare-with-bylineThis workshop is compised of a fascinating group of people, many of whom I hope to learn more about over the remaining 6 weeks, and I am very glad we will narrow things down a bit to begin working on whatever tasks we devise. With so many interesting backgrounds and such passion among the participants, I am now more intrigued about where we are going than when I started.

I wonder how many of them will ultimately plan to attend the Networked Learning Conference 2010, as a number of them already seem to be closer to Europe and Denmark than I am?

Understanding My PhD Journey, Round 1

I wrote about an interesting concept that is developing in my Foundations of CoP workshop, where it seems a number of us are working on PhD studies. I wanted to share my thoughts here about my own program at Lancaster, both because our current task (aside from revising my paper, where I get my feedback back tomorrow) is to consider what we are learning through our research practice and where we are right now. With this in mind, I am sharing an element of something I wrote in the workshop, where I started to muse on about my doctoral journey.

I looked long and hard at distance PhD programs, and found that none of the ones in the US met my needs (both of interest and of finance). I think of myself as somewhat transdisciplinary, and the idea of going a mile deep in such a narrow area (as if knowledge can be compartmentalized) is a foreign concept for me. Thus, I needed a program that would allow a bit of flexibility. Ok, more than a bit of flexibility–I needed a program where I can create and develop as I go along, one that will meet my somewhat complex and postmodern needs.

In some ways the Lancaster program has somewhat of an American model, in that there are courses and shared learning during part of it, and then the independent component during the rest. As I learned, much of the rest of the world does not have the formalized coursework that is rather standard in nearly all US programs. However, I find that my program is very open to interpretation when we are asked to “apply what we are learning to our practice”–I take great liberty with how I understand and make sense of my own practice–and thus far have felt very supported in my program without feeling constrained at all. I do feel comfortable with my degree program situated within an Educational Research department.

For my own community of practice support, I have found that much of my network, which is Twitter and blog focused, is either on the PhD route or has recently completed it. However, it does not have the CoP framework around it . . .