Building Autonomous and Dynamic Communities of Learning within Distance Learning Environments: Focusing Upon Making Connections, Knowledge Creation and Practice Communities
The past fifteen year period has seen distance learning environments shift from the simplistic presentation of textual information and a few non-instructional flashes of multimedia pizzaz towards environments that are slowly flourishing with autonomous, dynamic communities of learning. Within these environments, there is the potential for real learning and understanding to occur and through the community-development and interaction that supports the conceptual framework of understanding and social engagement. With the shift in instructional design and development focused upon enhancing opportunities for interactive activities within distance learning environments, there remains the implementation of the distance learning environment wherein the instructor must understand the conceptual impetus and important and impetus behind the focus upon making connections and framing knowledge creation and knowledge practice communities. Components of self-regulation, chunking of information and concerns related to cognitive load directly impact the success of the learner and, further, the success of the community of learners. Yet what of the social aspects related to learner engagement and the potential towards building an autonomous, dynamic community of learners within the distance learning environment? As distance learning environments mature in knowledge, research and expectations of understanding, an emerging understanding of the importance related to building and sustaining communities of learning has become an integral consideration.
Keywords: Distance Learning, Web-based Learning, Web-enhanced Learning, Communities of Learning, Learning Communities, Self-Regulation, Cognitive Load, Higher Order Thinking Skills, Communication, Interactive Activities, Semiotics, Information Chunking, Autonomous Communities, Dynamic Communities, Information Age, Conceptual Age, Knowledge Economy
Dr. Caroline M. Crawford
Associate Professor, Instructional Technology, University of Houston