Our university is evaluating Learning Management Systems right now, and comparing the features of Blackboard 9.1, MoodleRooms Joule, and Instructure‘s Canvas LMS has forced me to think about basic tools in online learning. Which tools do we need and which are just niceties? [Or worse– impediments to high quality teaching and learning?] Is there a holistic way to think about online learning tools that makes it more intuitive to know how best to give an online learning community the tools it needs?
I approached this list using abstract, flexible criteria that describe a tool’s function in a Connected Class Community. In other words, I want to talk about what an online learning community needs without talking about specific tools by name. The tools change from year to year nowadays, but the act of sharing learning is as old as human civilization itself. The activities that we engage in as a community of learners could take place in a small village of humans who’ve never heard of a computer as easily as they take place on the Internet. Our technologies for building online learning communities should help us rediscover what modern societies have forgotten about human community. I hope that, by using evocative, symbolic images and connecting with deeply human communication needs, we can get closer to helping communities of learners support lifelong, life-wide inquiry.
So what are the essential components of a Connected Class Community?
This is a short list of the main features a Connected Class Community needs to possess. Each topic is discussed in greater depth when you follow the hyperlink.
- The Library— An easily accessed wealth of rich, relevant materials curated to support learning.
- The Commons— A vibrant communal discussion channel where all are clearly heard and included in the group dialogue [polylogue?]
- The Golden Apple— Something of intrinsic and genuine value that inspires wonder and empowerment
- The Direction— Goals and practices are aligned and realigned continuously.
- The Room of Secrets— A place where confidential information is shared in trust between Student and Teacher
- A confidential dialogue channel where the student and teacher bond of trust is enacted.
- A safe, private place to work with content outside of the class community conversation.
- The Memory— A place for the storage, retrieval, and reflection on learning.
- The Master— Caring demander, challenging questioner, and resourceful guide
- The Learner— All members of the course community, all committed and engaged in mastering skills and constructing meaning
Please follow the links as I discuss in depth how you can implement these tools in your LMS, blog, wiki, (or any ol’ Open Learning Network).
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