10 August, 2006

Blogs and Building Online Communities

We are getting more academic staff wanting to look at use blogs in teaching and learning. In my mind, the only current reason we would want to use blogs in HE is to develop communities of learners.

Nancy White on the Full Circle Online Interaction Blog has several posts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5) about the types of communities that can be developed around blogs. These ideas form a useful starting point for thinking about what we might want to achieve through using blogs, and how we might go about using them in collaboration with other technologies.
Nancy starts off by looking at what constitutes a community, and how that might be different from a network where people have perhaps one off interactions looking for help or assist each other completely impersonally using social bookmarking sites like del.ici.ous.

Indicators of community are looked for, such as evidence of people caring about the development of the group rather than just themselves, group identity and group language. For more about community indicators have a look at who is talking about the phrase through Technorati. This idea if developed further can help us see if the communities that we are trying to develop, are developing to any great extent.

The three types of communities identified are:
  • Communities based around one blogger, who has readers and commenters. Some of these commenters have their own blogs. If the main blog disapeared the community would too.
  • Topic centric communities which might look similar to a network. The blogs in this link to each other, and the fall of one, while taking from the community, would not damage the community a huge amount. There is no centre in this type of community and often events are organised to bring the actors and influencers together.
  • Community centric groups would be based on a single plaform meaning that links between blogs and RSS feeds are used less. The important thing is who is commenting on whose blog. MySpace would be an example, as would I guess, a community based in a VLE with discussion boards and other tools available. These have very clear boundaries as we are used to with WebCT.

Would any academics want a more open community than this third example, with links to other institutions and the students there? Would this be acceptable and could this create a synergistic relationship locally, nationally or internationally between many students studying the same subject or specific area of a subject? If we did want this WebCT would not be the tool to use. We would need something more open.

1 comment:

Nancy White said...

Peter, I like your ending question. I have been having conversation in other domains (not education) where this question of boundaries - and intersections between communities - is going on. In some places, there is a lot of fear about being too open. In others, it is the natural conclusion. I'd be interested in following how the conversation in your organization goes! Tag it community_indicators or blogcommunities if you would please!