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Building OLCs

Vesely, Bloom, and Sherlock (2007) emphasized the following elements in building online learning communities:

  • a purposeful interaction with trust and respect
  • instructor’s presence through consistent feedback and modeling

These elements give the students the desire to participate in a collaborative activity.  If they have a good community environment and they know that the instructor is there to support them and hear any of their concerns,  they can be more confident to take risks and be involved.  These can take away a lot from the hesitation of students in joining communities, but if is established well enough then the community experience can be very beneficial.

building community



Reflections on Social Learning

“Prior to the Internet, the last technology that had any real effect on the way people sat down and talked together was the table.” Clay Shirky

I’ve been reading Tony Bingham’s The New Social Learning. He describes the new social learning as “at its most basic level, new social learning can result in people becoming more informed, gaining a wider perspective, and being able to make better decisions by engaging with others. It acknowledges that learning happens with and through other people, as a matter of participating in a community, not just by acquiring knowledge.” He says that social learning “happens using social media tools and through extended access and conversations with all our connections – in our workplaces, our communities, and online. It happens when we keep the conversation going on a blog rich with comments, through coaching and mentoring, and even at the gym during a workout.” To illustrate the power of this social learning, Bingham asks us to think of five peopl we communicate with, and then three things that we have learned from them. Most people recall this kind of learning more readily than any formal education. He proposes that “training often gives people solutions to problems easily solved. Collaboration addresses challenges that no one has overcome before.” This type of new social learning is comparable to the social capital created by a barn-raising in past times.

Alice Boyd

Philip Arnold – Week 6 Reflection – “It has to be easy to use, and it has to work”

I wear many hats on a given day, but one of the hats I most like to wear is the one that allows me to work with instructors to find solutions that will engage students in active learning and collaboration.  I have the opportunity to work with a variety of web tools and hardware, but one of the mantras our department has adopted after some trial and error is “It has to be easy to use, and it has to work.”  by “easy to use,” I mean that the tool or hardware needs to be intuitive and require a short learning curve.  By “it has to work,” I mean that it needs to be consistently reliable, but that it also must add value to the purpose for which it is intended – not just a replacement to a traditional method or used for the sake of it being the “newest technology” gizmo available.

One tool that I think that has potential to add value to online education is the new Google+ social networking service.  Unlike Facebook where all friends are lumped together, Google+ allows users to group the various communities they interact with into separate and distinct “circles.”  If you want to communicate and share with all circles at once, you can, but you also have the ability to share only with the circle/s you choose.  The potential for online community building and the applications for education seem endless and I’m excited that our group has agreed to try using this tool over the next few weeks to see if it can add value to our collaboration.  I hope it is easy to use, and I hope it works!

A few of the potential G+ applications for education –

Reflections: Is there a place for online communities in my world

Online communities are a large part of my world, the world of parenting the very young, the world of collaborating and learning from colleagues, and the world of staying in touch with family and friends across the country. The bigger picture of my life consists of these online communities:

  • Blackboard
  • Facebook
  • Napa Mom’s Club
  • Eco-lunch Blog
  • Crosswalk


Online communities are all around us. It is important that we examine attitudes and consequences of the online communities that we are surrounding ourselves with and asking ourselves:

  • “Are these online communities replacing those in our immediate reach?”
  • “Are these online communities our immediate future?”
  • “And, what will happen to the clubs, churches, and circles of friends that are outside our front door, if we are doing all of our communicating online?”

For me, this class has almost come full circle, my mind was immediately activated when I read  Bowling alone: Decline of America’s Social Capital by Robert Putnam, and now, as I have examined, and continue to examine my own definition of community, I feel that this circle in this journey will continue to grow and the definition will continue to expand.

A link to the first chapter of Robert Putnam’s book
Bowling Alone


It has been a good learning journey thus far. I am just as excited for the latter part of this journey.

INSPIRE – A Wonderful OLC for Kids

I came across the NASA INSPIRE program website and thought this was a great idea for students from 9th to 12th grade! It is an online learning community for students who are interested in science and technology.  They can interact with NASA staff, specialists, and other members 24/7.  They have some requirements for membership such as GPA and citizenship.  If they do not have a laptop, they can get one if they qualify for the National School Lunch program.  This OLC gives a lot of students who aspire to be scientists or researchers a head start.  Communities such as INSPIRE are truly inspiring because they focus on the future of our children, especially those who are determined to be successful, by giving them access to valuable resources.  They even take into consideration the fact that some kids who are smart and determined cannot afford to enter sophisticated programs such as what NASA offers.

Reflections on my Community

I’ve been thinking about the concept of community this week. In old English villages, through hundreds or thousands of years, the community was usually confined to about within five miles of the village, the distance you could walk in a day, or twenty miles, the distance you could ride on a horse. You and your neighbors would have a very narrow world view, and would likely have shared common experiences. Your family and friends would live within a few miles.

Now, look at the community of our class. We’ve had classmates from Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and across the country, with very different experiences and world views. In addition, I’ve posted classwork from Paris, Normandy, Boston, Virginia and assorted locations across the country. Tonight, I’m preparing to hop on a plane for a cross-country trip. And all without an interruption in coursework. Family members are spread across the globe – Japan, Germany, and Australia, in addition to various places in the U.S. Instead of becoming more disconnected, we are actually maintaining our family connections more effectively through social media.

So, a community is no longer a five-mile radius of a village. Instead it is a group of people who wish to stay connected together, for the purposes of sharing experiences and ideas.


Week 3 Reflection- Ideas Revealed

Ideas Revealed

According to A. Barbour, author of Louder than Words: Nonverbal Communication, the impact of any message, including that which takes place in a classroom, only 7 % is verbal (words), 38% is vocal (volume, pitch, and rhythm) and 55% comes from body movement (mostly facial expressions).

This is why I believe all online classes should incorporate some type of media/ program that would allow student and teacher face to face time.

While I complete my mid-term paper I find myself trying to integrate into it, everything “good” in online education. I find myself wanting to write everything that could be, everything that should be, and everything that shouldn’t.

This is not getting me far, as every writer knows, writer’s block is about the worst thing that a writer can have the case of, but second to that just might be a writer’s flood of facts, information, theories, and passion.

I hope to hone in on one, maybe two, main points this week in order to bring my writing to a succinct point, one that readers will be able to take and even apply in their own classrooms.


Reflections, Week 3

I’m thinking about social media and a topic for my midterm paper. I’ve seen new possibilities that I haven’t considered before.

Three factors guided me in the choice of my topic. The first were the readings over the past sever weeks. A couple of items in our reading have really touched me, and stayed with me. The first was Bowling Alone, with Putnam’s concept of increasing isolation and lack of social connections, along with the potential for filling that void with social media. The next was the Virtual Choir – it was very moving to see all those individuals working together to create something beautiful. The last was the reading this week on Empowering Youth. I was very impressed to see the power of social media being used to reach out and help others.

So, what about application to other areas? If Eric Whitacre could create a choir, could we create an expanded social learning community? In addition to beautiful music, can social media to create and reinforce family connections, and create an online family community? You may know that my project is on family history. As I pondered the readings, I thought about application to my project topic. I have been wondering about the usefulness of social media in this area. I have been exploring its power to provide education in this area, and am now adding the concept of creating online learning communities to learn more about yourself through these family connections.

Finally, the support and encouragement of my group team when I proposed this topic helped the ideas come together in my head, and I am very appreciate of their feedback. The use of social media seems to have application to many areas of education, and this includes the area of family history education. I have found several publications that may have an interest in this subject. The voice and tone that I used in writing the paper will be chattier and more personal than I use in a class assignment, while still conforming to APA style. Thank you to my online learning support group for their help!


  1. Social isolation
  2. Creating connections through social media
  3. What is social media?
  4. Building relationships with living relatives
    1. Staying in contact with relatives
    2. Finding new relatives
    3. Building your biography online
  5. Finding lost ancestors
    1. Publishing online
    2. Establishing family name groups
    3. Developing research skills
    4. Learning online
  6. What story are you writing?
  7. Creating connections across time and space

Alice Boyd


Philip Arnold – Mid-Term Reflection

In preparation for the mid-term project, I found myself reflecting on some of the great team and community building experiences I had recently at the Educause Learning Technology Leadership Conference.  Though the conference was face to face, I wondered how the experience I shared with my teammates and cohort could translate to online learning communities.  Further, how could I design a course for my students that would have meaning and sustain them not only through my class but throughout their own communities of practice outside the classroom?  Course design is very interesting to me, and I hope to explore this topic further with my own selling course.

An outline of my mid-term assignment –

Philip Arnold – Mid-term Topic Outline

Midterm Reflection

I chose the topic Promoting Positive Attitudes for Successful Online Teamwork since it is a big deal for me as a student in a program where group work is often expected.  I, for one, have had previous experiences that made me weary about joining groups.  This topic can help me, and probably others, create a positive environment for teams in our future online courses.

I. Introduction
II.Readings that influenced this topic
    A. Creating Self-Awareness of Learning that Occurs in Community by Susan                Imel and David Stein
    B. Finding a Place for Everyone by Datta Kaur Khalsa and Scott Hildreth
    C. Teacher’s Guide to International Collaboration
    D. What Leads to Effective Virtual Teamwork by Surinder Kahal
    E. The Virtual Team Builders Blog
    F. The Future of Virtual Teamwork & Collaboration by Terence Brake
III.Key Factors
    A. Team Setting/Environment
       1. forming groups
       2. recognizing diversity and individuality
       3. setting guidelines
       4. building trust
    B. Maintaining Group Dynamics
       1. relevance of objectives
       2. self-awareness of learning
       3. maintaining motivation
       4. facilitating
IV.Implication for Online Instructors
V. Conclusion