Thursday, October 13, 2005

Building Community

One of the nice things about blogging is that although much of the blogosphere is devoted to politics, an actually larger part is devoted to nothing more sinister than building community.

Rather than breaking down discourse, as today’s political punditry seems to be bent on, a vast majority of the bloggers seem to be reaching out to each other, to share their interests, joys and pain in what some analysts see as sort of a wide-scale public catharsis.

The implications of this use of blogging are particularly useful to Distance Learning, which although is clearly the bastard child of higher education and considered by many academics as an oxymoron in itself, is equally as clearly the wave of the future as higher education becomes more “public” in nature and as shifting demographics alter the makeup and usefulness of the traditional college campus.

One of the complaints traditionalist lob at Distance Learning is that it fails to create the community of learners that the classroom, dorm, quad and union (and football games?) theoretically create.

I will not argue that this community of learners is not necessary. To the contrary, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Kenneth Bruffee and Ken Burke and their “Conversation of Mankind.”

However, with the advent of blogging which permits a nearly real-time exchange of ideas, and other similar internet forums such as myspace.com, the gap between a traditional college classroom and an Internet classroom has effectively been reduced to the point that the only remaining issue is equity of access (which really is still an issue in the traditional classroom, where annual tuition fees are inching past $40,000 at many of the “elite” schools).

The mushrooming Internet community of students that myspace.com provides, for instance, was introduced to me by two of my students at the Warsaw campus, JT and Larissa, and also by Christine and Jessica in my Honors English class on the main IPFW campus. So imagine my own pleasant surprise when I discovered my own son, Ben, on there. Ben lives and works in Korea and we don’t see or hear from him nearly as much as we did when he was in college, so suddenly my wife and I can both see and hear what he’s up to, whenever we like!

Another really cool site that builds community among college students is collegehumor.com. Some of my students were doing some research on the lies of political pundit Ann Coulter and they found some wonderful videos of her that other students had posted to this site. (This site is a little risqué, so operator beware!)

So, in a nutshell, the old argument that Distance Learning can not provide the same type of learning community that the traditional face to face campus does, is simply no longer in any way operational.

1 Comments:

At 9:35 AM, Blogger thePotandKettle said...

Well I would like to say thank you for defending the distance learning program! I love the distance program and without it I can honesty say that I would not be back in school if it did not exist. If you look at my previous school records with IPFW (when I physically went to school) I hated going to school and I had the grades to prove it. I was holding a steady 2.2 better then some but worse then most. Now I am a 3.6 and climbing. I work at my own pace with my own schedule and time constraints. And yes I have always had contact with my fellow students. It is safe to say that those who participate in the Distance Learning Program are dedicated to the program and the students involved in the program.

Let me also add that when I physically attended college I had zero interaction with my fellow students because the college campus that I attended was located in my home town (IPFW) I had no need to branch out and find friends/discussion groups/dorm mates...I already had them. With the distance learning program I have had to create my community of learners.

 

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