Discussions on Learning in Online Networks and Communities

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This report brings together the main messages from a workshop held to validate the results of a study on ‘Innovations in new ICT-facilitated Learning Communities’. A large and an increasing number of people live in an environment where informal digital networking plays an important role in their being aware, finding information, sharing and learning through connecting with other people. Not all online networks are communities, but learning can take place in various networked and collaborative settings where people can access, connect and participate.

Participation in online spaces and communities is driven by pleasure and curiosity. There are
different ways to participate and not all the activities necessarily lead to learning. However,
evidence shows that a variety of new skills can be learned and nurtured in these settings, such as
engagement, problem solving, communication and collaboration. Learning takes place in
informal peer exchanges and is not necessarily recognised, even by the learners themselves.
Experiences show that it may be difficult to apply these types of approaches in formal learning
settings, or access these spaces and tools for formal purposes. There is a risk that formalising or
measuring informal processes changes their nature and their results.

It is difficult to discuss the informal learning which takes place in the new collaborative online
settings, as there is not much research, terminology or knowledge about the topic as yet. In
communities, people identify with each other as they have the same interests, experiences, and
objectives and they commit themselves to a joint purpose. These environments enable people to
learn situated knowledge and develop their identities as practitioners, and also develop and
exchange experiences and culture with others.

About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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