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Seb Anthony

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Online Learning Communities


Does anyone have any experience of putting together an online learning community? If so, what was it used for, is it still in use and do you recommend it?
Sue Nunan

2 Responses

  1. Content and users are the keys
    We’ve done few, for different people and for different reasons, and I have to say with different degrees of success!

    Those that have worked best have been designed around geographically dispersed groups of people who had a specific learning need, for example – selling a new product, getting to grips with a new change initiative, or at the centre of a management development programme. Some were short term projects that came to a natural end, others though planned as short term, morphed into a semi permanent fixture.

    Before going down the e community route it’s worth thinking about whether your organisation has the kind of culture that encourages knowledge sharing, and the asking of questions, as well as whether the potential community members you have in mind have access to the technology they need to access the community at an acceptable speed. You also need to consider whether you have the enthusiasm to take on the project, which can be time consuming, and whether you have people in the community cohort you are enthusiastic about and committed to contributing.

    Your IT department can either be a real ally or block development, sometimes it’s easier to work outside the organisations IT provision, particularly when the internal team have a major backlog of work.

    The 3 key drivers of success of a community are, in our experience:

    • The number and quality of users
    • The intensity of use
    • The quality and freshness generated by and available to the community

    One final note of caution – a great community can really take hold. We’ve worked on a couple that have overtaken the host company’s intranets in usage, members really felt that they had something of their own that worked for them.

    If you need any help, please get in touch, or for a quick overview visit

  2. Special skills for on-line learning communities
    Do you need this to be an open learning community or focused on a specific issue?

    Whichever, the key is in having a well trained on-line facilitator who can motivate and support the group. This person needs to be able to take a ‘non-directive’ approach – asking questions rather than giving instructions.

    The facilitator also needs to be pro-active, contacting people to encourage participation, not just waiting for them to join in.

    He/She needs to be able to set up online activities, sometimes setting up off-line activities as a precursor or for the individuals to take forward after an online event.

    To achieve this needs a particular personality with special skills. These are more like counselling than training skills.

    Our experience is that this can be a very worthwhile exercise but it takes more organising than a classroom session, though it can be, overall, more time-effective.

    Hope this helps.



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