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Case studies on new learning communities

Presentation by Claudio Dondo and Stefania Aceto at IPTS workshop, 31st March, Seville

Cloud created by:

Gráinne Conole
31 March 2009

Case studies on new learning communities emerging results from field analysis
Claudio Dondo and Stefania Aceto

Main interest of the study
To investigate the innovation emerging in 12 online communities in pedagogical and organisational terms

Desk research – indentify and select communities, content analyses and interactional analysis
Field research – interviews and survey

12 communities
Microbiilogy forum,
experience project,
II Centiere

Mircobiology Forum

  • Space for microbiologists to share their practice and keep up to date in the field
  • Learning happens informally and unintentionally and by peer exchange
  • Access to debate and context that members could not access elsewhere
  • Benchmarking of ideas and practices
  • Professional development is coupled with increased self esteem as main outcomes of community participation
  • 15 years history, 88 countries
  • Highly acknowledged in the field with negative effect that some companies are reducing their training budget and encouraging their employees to participate in the community instead
  • Professional community funded by corporate sponsors but independent

“The community has also given me the opportunity to demonstrate my own capabilities to my colleagues”

‘[Being a member] improve my credibility as a researcher internationally and improved my general personality to be an open-minded person”

“{being a member] reinforce my technical decisions, get a handle on common or best practices”

Members join to upgrade professionally and take advantage of a very activity community where peer support is key to success


  • Formal and informal learning happening
  • Community addresses the professional upgrade needs of a closed group of PA experts and practitioners in LA/Spain
  • Learning happens through the sharing of theoretical knowledge and through practice emerging among the participants
  • Quite a structured community
  • Closed expert network
  • Cross-cultural collaborative exchange
  • Community started from the suggestion of the participants to online courses who wanted to keep in touch and keep on discussing relevant topics
  • Community fosters cultural awareness and expression
  • Good example of a community where learning is explicit aim
  • Community started with social aims but then evolved into a learning community

II Cantiere

  • Aim is to propose and experiment a collaborative approach which finds a concrete output in the development and production of videos on free software use. This is a production orientated community born
  • Learning happens in the very process of sharing and confronting
  • Practical knowledge
  • Practical application of innovative theories
  • Creativity
  • Digital skills improvement
  • Knowledge co-construction
  • Spontaneous self-regulation
  • Potentiality of the collaborative approach
  • Constructive positive fruitful atmosphere
  • General satisfaction of all participants
  • Strong cooperative spirit
  • Flexibility and openness to different viewpoints approaches and ideas
  • Reciprocal respect among participants
  • It is a production driven and self organised community with no explicit learning aims
  • Despite the fact that the community doesn’t have an explicit educational aim, its outputs are educational

  • Share experience and information, meet people and socialise
  • Informal, incidental learning
  • Knowledge and experiences sharing
  • Practical knowledge (learning to live homosexually in a positive way)
  • Centralised discussion spurs on gay life topics to raise awareness
  • Community with social network features
  • Strong awareness raising role
  • Members’ sense of belonging
  • Active positive model for LGBT people
  • Majority of lurkers


  • Expert community to explore the features and potential of virtual worlds for learning
  • Newcomers are guided to get to know the community
  • Learning happens by knowledge and practice sharing and by interaction
  • Lurking is not considered negatively rather a way of learning how the community works
  • Expert community exploring the potential of virtual worlds for learning.
  • Focus on theory and practice related to virtual worlds
  • Discussion launched by community animators are tracked those launched by members are not
  • Open community – to real people and avators
  • Marketing strategy but word of mouth important
  • Community used as a platform to start new partnerships and develop one’s network
  • Learning happens informally and unintentionally
  • Members join because they want to be part of a community that does something important and want to learn through participation and for networking and partnership search


  • Help people learn English
  • Principle of QandQ
  • Learning is an explicit aim of the community
  • Spills over from the main activity – learning the language  are: learn hw to teach the language, learn how to find information, learning how to use ICT, develop social skills, develop critical thinking
  • Three learning outcomes are mainly developed passively
  • Culture of the community – policy on loose roles, policy on good manner of discussion trust the people you trust
  • Military organisation with a hippie attitude – moderators, administrators and trusted users
  • Most members are lurkers
  • Plan to award qualifications for the different levels of language proficiency
  • Learning  happens mainly by making questions and receiving answers on various issues
  • Community plans to provide formal learning certificates
  • Born as a community for students it has now evolved to help teachers teach better
  • Significant unintentional learning happens in terms of social and critical skills
  • Members join to learn English and benefit from total flexibility couple with the development of the culture of discussion and making new friends


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