Friday, May 10, 2013

Can You Really Build Online Community?

It is possible to build community online, and in fact, I have a colleague who is moving to Texas to be with his girlfriend, whom he met in an online class. Of course, the facilitator’s effort to create online community influences the degree to which students feel online courses meet those intangible needs for social companionship and interaction. For kids and teens, Facebook has become a primary mode for social interaction, so the social needs or desires of this younger generation may be evolving differently than those of older generations. I've seen many teens get together just so they could surf Facebook together and look at each other's profiles. They will all sit together in the same room but all be looking at different computers.  Others make plans to meet online even though they live in walking distance from one another! So while Facebook will never (hopefully) replace face-to-face social interaction, it has certainly become a bigger part of the social experience for younger generations than I think anyone anticipated. Similarly, online community and camaraderie has greater potential than I think some of us teachers realize. However, it is up to us to facilitate and nurture safe, supportive and engaging community interactions.

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