||Our Community Answers:
||Use of Community in Education?
My school district has a web site, but how could an online community be of benefit to educational institutions like them?
Educational institutions are ripe settings for online community, since they involve several distinct groups of individuals who have their own needs and reasons for communicating with one another, and in addition a strong need for those groups to engage in inter-group collaboration and communication.
Let's take each of the possible groups and examine how community could benefit them.
An online community for teachers provides some significant enhancements for communication, exchange and support. In a profession where sharing of information and issues is all-important an online community is a very efficient means of distributing news, views, teaching methodology and policy changes and providing the venue to discuss them.
For example, teachers' unions often use community components, such as message boards to discuss union policies, local election information and to keep abreast of the most current issues that face teachers at the local and state level. This form of communication is an effective way to exchange pertinent information in a timely fashion so that actions can be taken or needs met.
Online community acts as an additional resource outside the regular classroom setting where students can engage with other students and teachers for curriculum assistance. As an ever-growing resource ad venue for discussion, community helps enhance the educational experience and provides for expanded forms of information distribution.
Online community also provides the means for virtual learning, providing access for students despite geographical or other constraints. For example, several universities have deployed the use of chat rooms to hold virtual lectures. Similar to a face-to-face lecture, professors are able to display graphical information to accompany the textual, providing a comprehensive lesson in a cost-effective and convenient manner. In another example, students who are unable to physicall attend school for whatever reason could log in to their class community to access and submit materials or assignmnents, and be able to engage in dialogues with teachers.
Community also serves as a means to encourage parental participation in a student's educational experience. Online communities for parents could provide direct contact with their children's teachers in a safe and secure environment.
As another example, school districts could develop an online teacher/parent center where the curriculum is posted and where parents can ask questions, check on their child's progress or gain additional support based on a student's study needs.
Finally, for all parties - parents, children, teachers and boards - online community can provide the possibility for bringing schools together at particular times, for example, during fundraising activities, festive times or indeed times of trouble or uncertainty. Communities can also serve as information points for all participants in school activities, providing materials, calendars, news and views which affect all.
Our examples should show that online community can benefit educational institutions in a multitude of ways. In common with other communities, an educational establishment should assess their requirements for exchange and information and draw up a framework which can be used when developing, piloting and subsequently using online community tools. For more information on this process, please see these previous answers:
New Site Community?
What Makes A Successful Community?
Technology and the Virtual Community?
Building An IT Community for Young People?
Stepping Stone Communities?
We hope this has helped to answer your question and if we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We wish you the very best.
- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas