“Online Communities Editorial”
[Excerpt] In the previous issue of Educational Perspectives we explored the topic of online learning and provided a road map of some of the many projects that are underway in Hawai‘i that make use of technological innovations to provide education at a distance. In the present issue we explore a related theme: Online Learning Communities. It may seem strange that community can come into existence and maintain itself exclusively through the medium of technology. Traditionally, communities have been identified with place and physical proximity. Sustaining a community required meetings and actual face-to-face encounters, neighbor to neighbor and worker to co-worker. The Internet, it appears, has changed all this, not by making traditional communities disappear but by vastly extending the reach of people and by making it much easier for them to stay connected, no matter where on Earth they live. Much of this interaction is text-based, though voice and newer, graphical technologies such as streaming video, offer opportunities for people to meet together “face-to-face”, albeit it in novel ways. What potential do these technologies offer to communities of learners? The articles in this issue explore some of the principal questions concerning the development and nurturing of online learning communities. They address the challenges that must be faced by educators and offer insights into how they can be created and sustained.
Hunter T McEwan