As part of the facilitating learning communities Aoteoroa course that I’m taking part in, Konrad Glogowski recently discussed his model for creating an online environment that supports the development of community in online education.

Konrad has based his ideas on some ideas that have come from the project for public places. This project looked at thousands of public spaces around the world, and determined four main attributes that contribute to the effectiveness of a space.

What makes a great place?

Konrad has taken the ideas developed by the project for public spaces and applied them to the online education environment. For details I strongly recommend downloading and listening to his lecture.

My two primary aims in creating an online environment are to

  1. Support the development of community
  2. Support effective learning of course material

Konrad’s discussion was based on the first of these…

What I’m about to describe are things that I believe need to be in place first in order for the community to emerge, and in order for the participants to engage in meaningful and personally relevant learning. (Glogowski, 2007)

…but on consideration I don’t believe it need’s much modification to support both of these effectively. In actual fact his model would support the second point without modification if students could be free to pursue their own learning interests. I imagine this would work for an english writing class, project-based learning, higher level learning, or other subjects where subject material could be less structured.

In the case of programmes (such as the Otago Polytechnic massage therapy programme) where the subject material is structured, I believe that Konrad’s model does need a minor tweak to support this second priority.

First attribute – Uses and Activities

Konrad says that the goal of the facilitator needs to be the creation of opportunities for students to use their expressive and creative voice. If the aim of the facilitator was to do this, but also to provide an environment which supported structured learning activities, then I believe this attribute would support both of my aims in the creation of an online environment.

Second attribute – Comfort & Image

The primary task of the facilitator with respect to this attribute is the provision of the freedom to customise, design and build. Konrad described how this could easily occur with the creation of individual blogs. I don’t see any need to modify this goal at all.

Third attribute – Access & Linkages

According to Konrad the goal of the facilitator must be to promote all activity, make it visible, and easy to access. Again, there’s no need to modify this goal.

Fourth attribute – Sociability

Konrad described the goal of the facilitator as suporting the freedom to interact and network both within the class and with external parties. This goal is also congruent with the achievement of specific learning outcomes, and there’s no need to modify it.