E-Communities – The Advanced Phase of Online Education

Online Education
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Community means integrated body of individuals. Therefore learning communities could be defined as a unified body of individuals whose purpose is focused on learning. Learning communities can be brought together in a variety of ways. Schools, colleges and universities are a good example of communities. But there are some communities slightly different from the traditional communities which we see in colleges or university, and are called virtual or e-communities (electronic) or online education communities.

Here the question of address is what makes up an e-community, the theories that help those communities boom, the strong effect that those communities have on the participants, and the issues involved in developing an online community.

E-communities: There is an important difference between diverse types of online education and online learning communities. E-communities or virtual communities are not physically seen but exists in the cloud of internet. E-communities that meet mainly in cyberspace are emerging. Online education cannot be stated plainly by the use of technology since there is usage of different degrees of technology during education. An online course could be web-based, flexible of 1 to 29% of learning taking place online, blended/hybrid, comprising of 30 to 79% online education, or purely online where 80% or more learning takes place online. A recent study on online education shows that 11% of all U.S. higher education students, over 1.6 million people, registered in at least one of their courses online. Today, 57% of academic leaders understand that the learning result for online courses is equal to or better than face-to-face instruction.

With these online communities there is a significant difference because e-communities can grow in any of these circumstances, but internet is a tool and just having the tool would not help in sustaining relationships needed in making a community. The being community-ness of e-communities develop when there is interaction – sharing collective wisdom. This switch-over of ideas, knowledge, and imagination takes place between the learners and facilitators and makes up a mutually entertained experience rather than an experience that is just shared. This exchange of ideas takes place from learner-to-learner or learner-to-facilitator.

E-communities can be successful if there applies the constructivism and adult learning theory. The other element of its success is technology. Constructivism means learners must share knowledge actively and build new ways through which the real experienced based knowledge is shared. In addition, the role of the educator is also a key that will be act as a developing an environment that will promote real life experiences that lead to learning. Besides, educators have also placed an emphasis on the social aspects of constructivism, the collaboration of learners during knowledge acquisition and problem solving. Whereas adult learning theory is an important hypothetical reflection of study since people go for online education mainly after the completion of high schooling.

An obstacle to promoting e-community-based learning there is the complete absence of face-to-face instruction which is practically non-existent. The other obstacle may be the geographical and time-zone differences that hinder the learners from being communicative to other individuals of the e-community.

Technology and instructional design are the other two critical elements of designing an e-community based education. Technology based learning and communication is composed of video, audio, and text programs which could be of synchronous or asynchronous type. There should be some on the lookout consideration that explains which medium for this learning is suitable, when it will be used, and how it should be used be supposed to be included into the instructional design process. Other issues that should be considered in the instructional design process include how constructivism and adult learning theory contribute to making significant the function of the instructor and how they contribute to the sustainability of the e-community.

In conclusion it is obvious that the future of e-communities is certain. In simple words the medium used today for teaching will transform into another form whereas theoretical basis will remain comparatively the same. When there is more data on the effectiveness of various mediums as they connect to learning theories, the design of instruction for e-community learning will become a more precise science. Learner will get the rights to use the best instruction available, irrespective of geographical or time constraints and this will become more of a reality. Students will also be able to make choice of instructors/facilitators that they believe will fit with their learning styles and thus creating a more focused and dynamic model for instruction and learning.

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