There is ample research to show that a community based education model can greatly enhance the learning capabilities of its members. Moreover, learning is inherently a communal activity, which is perfectly exemplified by the classroom setup, where a group of students interact amongst themselves and with the faculty. Transpose this behavior to the world of internet and we have what we call online learning communities.
What is an Online Community?
An online community is a group of people united by similar interests and purpose using the virtual medium to interact with each other. These are communities first, online second. In the real world also, whether it is due to a particular geographic area where one resides or professional space where one works, we all, voluntarily or involuntarily, are a part of one or the other community. When these real world communities use internet as a medium to connect with each other, communicate, work together and pursue some common interests over the course of time they take shape of online communities.
A community that has collaborative learning as its primary purpose and uses internet as a medium to achieve the same can be referred to as online learning community. There has been growing buzz about the impact and benefits of building online learning communities, and particularly, the last few years have seen a tremendous growth in the number of such communities. The increasing clout of social networking, greater internet penetration and easily available computing technology can be held responsible for this proliferation. Although online education itself is not an entirely new phenomenon, dating back to the times when even internet didn’t existed, large scale online community building started with the Web 2.0 era in the last decade.