Sustainable E-Learning Communities
This author defines a community of practice as a "social setting where knowledge can be generated and exchanged," and asserts that a community must be structured to support a "learning process" in order to be sustainable. However, unlike typical learning situations, the learning that takes place in a community is directed by the pupil rather than an instructor, and support for their learning interests is critical to ensure continued participation. The present report examines Intelligibility Catcher (IC), an e-learning platform that seeks to address both the content and social aspects of learning.
(EN: the language of this article is very "fluffy" - I'm not sure if it's an attempt to elevate the subject matter or conceal a commercial motive, but it's exceedingly difficult to distill the intended meaning - so this is one of those instances in which my reading notes may be oblique to the original text.)
COUPLING CONTENT AND SOCIAL INTERACTION
Within a virtual community, information falls into two categories, static content that is used as reference material, and interactive content that is used to communicate with other members of the community.
It's significant that "learning" is being considered as a social activity, rater than merely an individual who passively absorbs static content, though this is not revolutionary" the model of education involves a student's interaction with an instructor, tutor, mentor, or coach.
Once a pupil has developed a foundation of knowledge, it is more common for education to take the form of group discussions and seminars. Even in such context, participants adopt the role of teacher or student as they communicate, share information, evaluate the information provided, and arrive at a consensus.
Whether communication is synchronous (chat) or asynchronous (message boards), the challenge is ensuring that conversations do not exist in a vacuum - that there is a direct link between the content of a conversation, the content of similar conversations, and the content of static resources.
It is also noted that "groups" exist within the context of a community, as there are a variety of different topics under study, though information on a specific topic, so a valuable feature of e-learning media is the ability of users to find information that suits their academic interests, regardless of its location within the structure of topics in the community.
There is also a note that, within a community, participants must learn to use the community: to identify content of interest to them, and to provide content that will be suited to the structures within the community. Much information is often lost in the clutter.
MEDIATE STRUCTURES FOR COLLABORATIVE CAPACITY BUILDING
Communities of Practice are largely resistant to formal structures, as they often exist independently of an organization or, when used within an organization, there is perceived value in avoiding organizational boundaries, which are generally counterproductive to open communication and knowledge sharing. As such, many learning communities are somewhat disorganized and casual. While the lack of formal structure or restrictions may make them more productive, it also makes information within the CP more difficult to locate.
In reaction to this problem, Intelligibility Catchers (IC) have been designed as a method for "bringing about learning results" by facilitating access to information and helping to form connections between coaches and learners. An example of an IC is provided - it looks much like an assignment for a mid-level college course: providing background information, objectives, and a description of the deliverables.
(EN: Could be I'm missing the point, but this seems more like a "novel idea" than a systematic solution, though I do think it has some merit. If a community's efforts can be focused on specific assignments, handed down by a moderator or invented on their own, it seems that there would be a greater sense of purpose for members of the community than just milling about and chatting with colleagues and hoping something significant results.)