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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creating a Vibrant Learning Community

Today I am presenting at Immaculata University on the topic of Creating a Vibrant Learning Community as part of a faculty workshop.

Here are my slides (although SlideShare did something to some of the photographs on my slides...sorry about that.)

Communities Of Practice
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: academic community)

My presentation notes:

Faculty today are confronted with a very heterogeneous population of traditional and non-traditional students. All have been influenced by technology during their formative years in some way. Some remember nuclear drills and sitting under their desks, some have been influenced by automated manufacturing, others by the birth of the Internet, others by the mass audience message of television while others vividly remember watching the first astronaut land on the moon. They all bring a rich experience to class but the experiences are all different.

Regardless of the "age" in which these students have grown up and which technology was the greatest influence on those students, they all have similar traits that have spilled over into the classroom.

They are expecting "customized" education. "That day you have scheduled for a test isn't good for me." or "Can I study a different topic, I don't like that one."

They are under tremendous amounts of stress. At school, at home, everywhere.

They are all very busy. School is being fit into other activities. Work, social life, sports, caring for parents, kids, animals, etc.

They have a consumer expectation of education. "Hey, I am paying for this degree or my parents are and I should get an A." or "You should make accommodations because...I am paying your salary."

They are all feeling a bit isolated.

In addition to those traits and factors, students have grown up under different levels of technological influence as I indicated before. While others divide people into boomers, and such, one thing I have done that I have found helpful is to divide students and others into four different groups based on what types of video games they played while growing up. (it doesn't hurt that I like video games.)

See Gamer Rater: New and Improved for details on this portion of the presentation.

We aren't going back to the old classroom styles and formats where learning was in a community of different levels of students all in the same classroom. We have different levels of students but they are all spread out.

So if the goal is to take the current student population and create a vibrant community of learning, then the first thing we must do is to define it.

A Learning Community is a group whose members regularly engage in sharing and learning, based on common interests.
Learning Communities start in the classroom.
  • Begin with a policy of including each student in discussions.
  • Create small groups and allow frequent student-to-student interactions.
  • Have events outside of the classroom like "brown bag lunch and learns".
  • Create reverse mentoring by teaming up different students with each other for projects.
  • Use a problem-based learning approach to pull students together.
Now we can also leverage technology to expand the community beyond the classroom. But first we have to get over misconceptions about Social Media. This image is taken directly from Facebook and is the image many faculty have when someone mentions Facebook.

But Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning and IntroNetworks are all great tools for having academically focused learning communities in an online setting.

Additionally, blogs are great for activities like:
  • Clarification of Terms.
  • Posting a Collection of Valuable Resources.
  • Advice from alumni.
  • Tips and techniques based on the materials covered in class.
  • Extending discussions outside of class.
Even Twitter can be used.
  • Real-time access to students/alumni.
  • Sending yourself/students reminders.
  • Answering quick questions.
  • Mentoring.
  • Answering one question will lead to more questions.
  • Reach across silos of information.
  • Broadcasting thoughts and ideas.

Wikis are being used everywhere and can be create foundations for a learning community. See Pedia Palooza for information covered in this portion of the presentation.

You should even encourage students to create "YouTube moments" to extend the classroom and build a community.

But learning communities don't build themselves. You must create a structure, a framework and serve as an example and lead the way to help the community grow. You cannot expect to create an empty space in a social network and expect to SHAZAM an active, vibrant community. Actions must be taken, the faculty must serve as leaders. Consider linking a Freshman class with a class or graduate students or even with alumni. Think of how to create a community beyond the 4 walks of your classroom.

For example number one, see Tear Down The Walls: Web 2.0 Extends Class

Also see, Web 2.0 Lessons Learned

For a post related to creating vibrant learning communities...see Adopting Social Media in Your Organization? A Few Considerations

For example number two, see CAC Re-Cap with its links to related information that explains the event and the learning community involved in the event.

Finally, the questions might be "Why Create Learning Communities?"

The answer is simple:
  • They create a friendly and open atmosphere among students and faculty and facilitate learning.
  • They expand learning and interactions beyond the classroom.
  • They make for happier, better adjusted students which aid retention and helps with recruiting.
  • Makes for happier and more engaged alumni who welcome the chance to be a part of the community even after they graduate.
  • Creates fun, enthusiastic learners and is fun for the faculty member as well.
So, today I challenge you to create a vibrant learning community within your classroom and beyond.

For additional information on this subject and some of the topics covered see the web site for Gadgets, Games and Gizmos.

Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide


Mrs Martin said...

Hello Karl,

Thank you for your presentation at Immaculata. It was very engaging and informative. I taught a new course in Social Computing last semester and had some interesting experiences with it so I can relate to all that you talked about.

Anonymous said...

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Karl Kapp said...

Mrs Martin,
Thanks for the note, really enjoyed working with the faculty and engaging in some great discussions. Your students are very fortunate.

Take care,

Karl Kapp said...

E-Learning Tyro....thanks for the honor