Chapter 9: OCL Exemplars: Online Communities of Practice

Chapter 9 Tag Cloud

24 thoughts on “Chapter 9: OCL Exemplars: Online Communities of Practice

  1. Chapter 9 is very interesting to me because of the concept of Informal Learning, meaning the way we learn through out lives by doing, observing and experiencing. Since communication and community comes from the word meaning to share, I see learning as sharing of experience through situations in life. The text books states that “Communities of practise are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis,” (142). This connection between communities of practise and Informal Learning is very important in what I think about online learning, because online learning of any medium are virtual communities of practise, but don’t necessarily have a type Informal Learning built into them. I think Informal Learning has to be within life experience and I don’t think life experience (ie face to face, real life world), can be constructed online properly. You may learn from your friends on MSN messenger, but it’s not the same as when you hang out with them face to face. I guess the question I am asking all of you is do you think we can facilitate all our learning experiences that have traditionally been learnt face to face into an online community and have socially structured way?

    1. In response to you question Sophia as to whether learning experiences that have traditionally been learned fact to face can be learned in an online community, in my perspective I’d say yes and no. This chapter presents a very convincing argument that yes, online communities of practice, although admittingly has limitations such as “communication overload from a large number of participants or postings,” serve as very important knowledge nodes. I must admit, this chapter, especially the later half that explains and describes how GENs work really started to sway my skepticism of OCL, there seems to be a very detailed and well established framework. With that being said, yes, I do believe that OCoPs, in relationship with GENs, can facilitate learning experiences and generate knowledge that has traditionally been learnt face to face but only to a certain extent. For example, if heart surgeons were to gather to learn new techniques of operating, the benefits to learning and witnessing such expertise and precision in real life and being able to discuss that real life experience in real time face to face with colleagues who just witnessed the exact same thing. This is not to say that the same learning opportunity cannot be mimicked online through perhaps video conferencing/skype and turned into an even broader international opportunity available to those who do not have the time or means to travel.

      1. I think that OCL systems can be a great part of a new educational process, It allows for a greater immersion and interaction with course materials, it allows others to share their strengths and pass them on, in a way that a traditional process does not really allow for. Things can be explained through greater detail for example. There is the disadvantage of having an information overload, and it’s can also be harder to motivate people to actively participate. As we’ve seen in our class, Linda does a great job by calling on people in the class to respond to her questions. The biggest strength, and something I feel may be lost through these online initiatives is the socialization, already computers are having the effect on students coming into the job market being fully prepared for a digital world, but being completely unprepared for a face-to-face social world. So how can socialization be integrated into an online learning process? Can it? I think there needs to be a hybrid approach, which might see class pods for example where for a semester instead of taking 3 or 4 unrelated classes, they are grouped, so that groups of students are working through several like themed classes together. This was how the first year at Emily Carr worked, we were sectioned into classes of 18, and we each had to take the core foundation classes, it meant we got to know those around us, we got to know each other strengths and none of us felt like we had to go through the process alone, it was something I took a great deal from.

      2. This is actually a reply to Dean’s reply – not sure if I can reply to a reply here. That’s really cool about the sectioning of groups, Dean. I know that while I worked for Arts & Social Sciences Co-op, I volunteered at the FASS booth at the Surrey open house where high school kids got to explore the different faculties offered. It turns out that FASS is running like an “intro” program for first years at the Surrey campus, where a sectioned group of students take something like 9 – 12 core courses together and progress through individual programs that way. I think this is SUCH a great idea. It’s tough to make connections and friends in a lecture hall of 300. I bet it’s even harder to get first years to interact online, when they don’t know each other or the protocol for online learning. This way, they form connections, move on together (most of the time), and can learn from each other, while making online interaction smoother. It’s always weird when you interact with people via WebCt or whatever, for Distance Ed courses, and then you meet them at the exam and realize “hey I’ve had classes with you before, but just never knew your name.” It’s like this odd virtual reality, where you almost have an alias or something.

  2. Chapter 9 begins with discussion on informal learning. I think this is very interesting because as informal learning is learning by doing or through experience most people would agree that informal learning thus takes place mostly in real-life situations. However, with the advent of the internet, informal learning now frequently is taking place online through online discourse, collaboration and knowledge building. This demonstrates the power of the internet and the scope of opportunities that it enables should be used to advantage. Online communities of practice allows for engagement and participation just as face-to-face meetings (both has its strengths and limitations).

    Before I read this chapter I understood the benefits of online learning such as being time or place independent, being more efficient and convenient…etc. but I felt there may be a difficulty in measuring student progress and actually grading online participation. However, an analytical framework that is detailed and cohesive is evident for online communities of practice as mentioned in this chapter. With contextual indicators we can measure quantitative data, social and intellectual indicators and procedural indicators offer qualitative data and of course technological indicators represent acknowledgment that the course is conducted online. These 4 areas contribute towards a reliable framework for OCoP which makes me much more confident in the grading and accuracy in online courses. If anything online grading in this way may even be more accurate because teacher bias or inaccuracy is less of deviating a factor.

  3. What I found to be interesting about this chapter is the bit that talks about the 4 different kinds of virtual communities. I wondered what kind of communities I choose to belong to, outside of studies. One of the communities is “Communities of interest (people assembled to share ideas about a common topic) – I kind of feel like my interest in the fashion, baking, and fitness “community” is accessed via Pinterest. I pin things I see, or things I think my friends would like, and as they follow me they re-pin and pass that information along. When I first started using Pinterest I didn’t see it as a sharing tool, perse, but more of a personal collage of interests. I read blogs all the time, but rarely comment on posts, and though I find I have more “virtual hobbies” than physical ones, I still feel like I belong to these online “communities of interest.” Other communities mentioned were “goal-oriented communities of interest (comparable to a task-fore or project team vested with a specfic mandate); learners community (guided by an instructor and linked to curricular objectives); and communities of practice (members share and pool complementary knowledge to enrich one another’s professional practices).” (pp.149-150)

    I think that as a class, we belong to both the goal-oriented community and of course the learners community. I also think we kind of fit into the last community, but am on the fence, since we’re not professionals, but get together via these blog posts to discuss the chapters. What do you guys think? Agree or disagree?

    Also, what kind of online communities do you belong to and how would you classify them based on the four mentioned online communities?

    1. I found this section on communities most interesting, as well. I think that the most common community for me would also be my various communities of interest, particularly because my interests are what drive my motivation to engage. I am also a member on Pinterest and use this as a medium where I can find and share ideas and other “interesting” things to pin! I’m also a member on Tumblr which I use for the sharing of ideas related to fashion, design, etc.

      I agree that as a class we belong to a goal-oriented community. We have a common goal of obtaining knowledge through higher education.

      I think the most interesting one is a community of people in a local area. Where I see this relevant to a physical community, the trends towards online that dictate the other communities, such as interests and goals, seem more dominate in terms of the kinds of communities we associate ourselves with today.

      Thanks for raising this question. Its nice to reflect on how we identify with the communities in our lives differently today.

  4. Chapter 9 provided a concise overview of what defines a “community” in its various shapes and forms. Learning online is new for some, however informal learning isn’t a radical concept. Learning doesn’t have to comprise of the traditional relationship of a “teacher” instructing a “student” on approved curriculum; rather, it can comprise of a curious Internet user browsing online communities. The chapter describes “Communities of Practice” as a “relatively tightly knit groups of professionals engaged in a common practice,w ho communicate, negotiate and share their best practice with one another directly. CoP disseminates skills, teachings, methods and techniques onto a larger, more global data base. The process of globalization is key in CoP thriving. CoP contributes not on only to existing knowledge, but advancing knowledge.

    Linda explains that Wengers (et al 2002) argues that knowledge should not be viewed as static, and he go’s on to describe what knowledge should stand for which includes: Knowledge Lives in the Human Act of Knowing, Knowledge is Tacit and Well Explicit, Knowledge is Social as Well as Individual and Knowledge is Dynamic. After reading how Wenger defines knowledge, it gave me a better framework for understand the rest of the chapter.

    There were two OCoP’s listed in Chapter 9, Global Educators’ Network (GEN) and Wikipedia (which I’m going to focus on). The section on Wikipedia as one of the biggest CoP’s reiterates how useful and collaborative this online source is. Its been evolving since the day it launched and now Wikipedia has become more academically credible than ever before. The beauty of Wikipedia is access. Access to knowledge you may not have been able to find so easily. The fact that anyone, of any age or professional/academic credible can participate is the most collaborative aspect. Openness and inclusively is the most revolutionary aspect of this CoP. Wikipedia is constantly changing, constantly renewing itself, constantly updating facts, and constantly improving how users gather their knowledge. Its ingenious what the worlds smartest, most innovative professionals can do when they are able to collaborate together. As the clique go’s “Two brains are better than one” It could’t be more true for Wikipedia.

    I wonder when high schools will come around and accept Wikipedia as an academically credible source? To my knowledge, most schools in BC allow students to use Wikipedia as a secondary source. Changing regulations takes far too long and its at the cost of students attending school today. We should be keeping as up to date with the rest of the world instead of secluding and caging our children in their four-walled classrooms.


  5. Chapter 9 was of great interest to me because it began with a discussion on informal learning. This type of learning is something we do practically every minute of the day and has the potential of entitling us as “street smart”. I feel traditional classroom settings should capitalize on this type of learning because it is closely linked to our survival and experience of the world as human beings. As mushy as this sounds, the notion that we knowledge is something acquired through experience couldn’t be more true.

    Diving deeper into chapter 9, it becomes evident that learning is something we experience through other agents i.e. a friend, a teacher, a community. Therefore, OCL systems allow for this process of knowledge building to occur in a strategic and orderly manner, which is something real-life encounters and face-to-face systems sometimes lack. Now that I think about it, OcoPs resemble traditional learning settings in a manner that allows participants to learn and acquire knowledge even If they are not actively participating or submitting content. I feel that OCL strategies push each individual learner to participate in spite of that learner’s personality type (shyness, intraversion) due to grading based on quantity and quality of output. This can be considered as an advantage or disadvantage of OcoPs. it all depends how you are looking at it.

    As learners, we seem to be pushed to pick between the online world and the traditional world of teaching because 21st century society keeps evolving. However, I think this is a false dichotomy… One is not better than the other; both methods counteract the shortcomings of the other. For this reason, we perhaps shouldn’t be trying to find a NEW hulk-solve-everything-for-everyone-like theory but instead combining the individual parts of the currently existing methods with the newer avant-gardes ones. As students, we have the choice to pick one or the other, however I find that a hybrid method that capitalizes on exchange of information, increase in participation and connection among individuals, experience which extends pass the classroom, diversity of knowledge tools used and decrease in class hierarchy are the most suitable for the paradigm we find ourselves in.

    That’s about it for chapter 9 folks!

  6. I really enjoyed Chapter 9. It spoke to how I have felt for a long time about the learning system in place and how it does not speak to the wide array of learning styles. It does not facilitate or even recognize the many ways in which we learn.

    The internet is still largely regarded in academic circles as an unreliable source unless the work exists elsewhere in print. This is archaic thinking and does nothing to promote the progression into a knowledge society. There are many credible sources on the internet verified by multiple sources. The fact that it is not a traditional source is where the issue lies for a lot of academics. They are the last holdouts and obstacles on the way to real collaborative online learning because they can not fit online learning into the same conceptual framework that has existed for learning structure thus far.

  7. Informal learning consumes every aspect of our everyday life through our experiences and observations. It is not learning from a book but rather learning-by-doing (learning by living). The idea of informal learning online is interesting and I agree with Linda Bi, that it has its strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, the interesting thing with informal learning is that it “sticks”. For example, when I read something from a book and memorize it for a test, i often forget most or almost all of the material afterwards. But learning-by-doing is different, when i first learned that walking into a table hurts, that information “stuck” with me. What I am trying to say is that when you participate in the construction of knowledge, you remember it much more easily. In this sense, OCL can be very beneficial as it requires the participation and collaboration of individuals in knowledge building and to reach intellectual convergence.

    I agree with my classmates, that chapter 9 provides a grounded framework on how OCL can be measured and graded. I like that there are quantitative and qualitative measures in this framework because it brings in both objective and subjective aspects to OCL.


    1. I am in the same boat as Sharon, in that when I read/study from a textbook, more often than not I will forget the information once I no longer need it. In other words, once the test is over, I’ll forget what I read. That being said, I’ve noticed a change recently in my ability to read, and retain – primarily surrounding different theories in this class. I think the reason why is because we’re all doing the readings and then continuously applying that information in our reflections, in our class discussions, blog entries and in forming our seminars.
      I believe that this reflects the notion of learning-by-doing, or in other words, knowledge building. And I am in complete agreement about how OCL can be beneficial to long term information retention. One example of this is the adoption of schools using iPads to connect to an education network, and build knowledge in an interactive way, rather than the static method of reading from a book. In addition, iPods are being used as a means of introducing audio-books to students. While this method obviously doesn’t promote literacy, it does introduce children to a bigger variety of written works, and exercises the ability to listen and pay attention.

  8. I thought chapter 9 tackled the idea of informal learning. This is a very interesting thought considering that before the development of the formal classrooms, or before a child goes into formal education, this already occurs. This is somewhat the learning by doing aspect that had been referred to in class. I see it more in terms of learning through experience. With the development of the internet, this type of learning has become more common as it takes place through online discourses in forums and resulting into knowledge building. Through the development of online communities as well, it takes the face-to-face meeting into a whole new level.

    In my experience with formal learning, everything seems to be done in order to be able to regurgitate everything that the instructor has told us (like what others have mentioned before me). I have read and memorized all the notes and important aspects within the course, but after the exam, it slips right out of my head. Now, with the combination of informal learning and online collaboration, I feel as though this is a more effective way of retaining the knowledge we attain from reading and discussing.

  9. This chapter breaks down the defining characteristics of knowledge building, and goes into how communities of learning which depends on the members’ level of willingness to collaborate, exchange thoughts, and bounce ideas off each other through healthy discourse and debate. There are various avenues, both in physical as well as digital, online, web-based spaces, that allow for knowledge building to thrive. Understanding the tools and platforms which facilitate knowledge building is important, but it is equally important to know what constitutes communities of practice and learning for both personal and professional growth and development.

    As more tool, technologies, and forward-thinking mindsets are bridging spatial and temporal gaps, we citizens in the knowledge community are able to connect and collaborate with individuals and groups in ways like never before. We now have the ability to communicate with our peers at a micro level, as well as contribute to bodies of knowledge through platforms far bigger than ourselves, and readily accessible to the masses. We can now engage with others socially as well as intellectually, and rely on multimedia platforms to facilitate these enriching and thought-provoking discussions.

  10. OK this may be off the mark or inappropriate or something but, if OCoPs are “viewed as encompassing the voluntary association online of professionals, practitioners, scientists and/or interest groups who come together intentionally, actively and regularly for mutual gain and collective value” ( p. 150 ) are there not profound ideological implications in this?

    If the “concept of community is replacing the image of the solitary genius” isn’t this, ideologically, a good thing overall for the future of the planet?

    It seems to me that the current system with its huge and exponentially growing economic disparities, environmental carnage, wars, famine, disease, Mitt Romney and Stephen Harper is premised on the mythical solitary entrepreneur: the Horatio Alger types who rise from poverty to economic affluence through their ‘’true grit’, courage and honesty. He or she strives not for mutual gain and collective value with others but rather for his or her own gain and that of his immediate friends and family.

    So, unless the “mutual gain and collective value” is explicitly derived from robbing others ( as in Goldman Sachs ) aren’t all these OCoPs fundamentally subversive? Just sayin . . .

  11. I found this chapter to be interesting with the discussion of OCoPs and the examples that were provided demonstrating OcoPs as a knowledge building community. I feel that the need for higher education is a growing demand around the world and there aren’t enough teachers to educate students in the traditional didactic methods that were once adequate. In online communities of knowledge it enables teachers and students to engage in scientific discourse and research and thereby allowing knowledge to because it enables for a greatly expanded student participation. Hence this improves the quality and nature of the ideas generated and debated are also enriched. Living in the knowledge age; knowledge has become essential to everyday life. As technology continues to evolve we must as well evolve with the technology in order to understand how it operates and how to operate it. Communities of practice allow for sharing of knowledge so we best progress knowledge forward. The only issue i can see for OCoPs in the future is net access, net neutrality and net surveillance. Will everyone get a fair share of time on the net and equal accessing speeds to share knowledge?

  12. This chapter really made me think about how the internet has built on a lot of what our society used to do before it was invented. OCoP’s expand on CoP’s and if we look at other social media from previously in the book we have expanded as well. Granted this may not have been an expansion as obvious as CoP’s but I see the connections.

    As for informal learning, I feel this can be the most important part of the learning process. Sure being in school and formal learning is important, but a lot of the stuff I use on a daily basis all came from informal learning. In schools we need more knowledge building and learning by doing so that it sometimes may feel like informal learning. This might help the students to be more interested. The online learning or OCoP’s is a great way for this and I am glad we are going to be using GEN, so I will have this experience. Learning by doing is what I know works best for me and it may be the same for many others. I hope the system will change so that it includes many people who learn like this.

  13. chapter 9 examines the definitions of term such as community, community of practice, community of learning. “Community of practice are group of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about topics”(p.142). So an example I think it can be different types of blogs or chats where people share their ideas and concerns about particular topic. This way the knowledge can be transferred more easily and faster, people gain knowledge via collaborating with each other online and sharing their ideas. “Solving new problems and documenting the solution in a manual article, new way of working or new tool represents a knowledge artifact”(p.142). So it made me think a lot that online learning helps people to generate ideas, share it and build new knowledge based on this ideas, so better say to construct the knowledge. I know that in my personal life i had many situations when I discussed some topic with somebody online and collaborated, and my opinion and perception on the position about topic could change which in this case created new knowledge in my head, based on other peoples experiences and conclusions. For example Wikipedia helps people to invest the information and share it to the public and others to collaborate on it, which in this case construct the knowledge in different individuals.

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