Daily Tasks on Thursday, 11-12-2014

  • Lecture: 90 minutes
  • Literature
    • [1] Prof. Weber-Wulff: Slide “Learning communities”: http://people.f4.htw-berlin.de/~weberwu/didaktics/


The topic of today were learning communities. First, let me explain what this term means. Learning communities are mostly the place where teacher and the students (learners) can meet and interact. In theory, it is the place where the relationships of the students is defined by learning goals (see [1]). The environment can be also on the web. So is the HTW Berlin a learning enviroment?

Sure, it is. We students meet their to work on projects, but mainly to visit lectures and to do exercises. So, the HTW is mostly a student cohort. This means, the creation of community between the students themselves is limited. As someone mentioned in the lecture, we don’t have a campus culture like in the United States – so we mostly meet for limited time on the HTW campus. I’m living in the student hostal near the Campus Treskowallee of the HTW, but it is kind of separated from the university itself. I also lived here when I went to my first university in bachelor program: the Beuth Hochschule für Technik. So, students are kind of separated from each other outside the university and they are not kept together on campus.

This makes it really difficult for learning communities to grow up. But social media helps us students to organize and discuss – especially over the limits of semesters. On facebook, we have a group for all IMI master students. But this community is completely separated from the university itself and professors are not part of it.

So which community structures can appear? First, you can link different courses, e.g. by their content. This means that the professors need to coordinate – so they must keep an active communication, too. So the professors can kind of combine learning goals over more than one course – this is really effective as I think because the students will be served learning contents in different contexts. For example, they learn about sorting algorithms in “Algorithms & Optimizations” and have to implement on in “Programming”. There can also be coordinated studies if they are organized within a central study program.

On the offline side, you can have web communities. This means, the learners and teachers can interact and get linked together. Elements like boards allow discussions including the teacher. Learning management software like Moodle allow different community elements, such as wikis which also allow contribution – which is the highest goal of cooperative learning as I mentioned in some diary entry before.

Web communities mostly deal with asynchronous communication. In our globalized world with the need to have flexible working and learning times this is an important point. Asnychronous means: the learners are not online at the same moment. This means, the professor should also function mediator and intialize the communication processes regurlarly so that the community is busy and alive. Our professor showed of two personas of potential professors – one was enthusiastic and could implement “swift trust”. The other one didn’t introduce himself and in general didn’t act as active communicator and listener so the students wouldn’t develop trust and communicate frequently.

There are important prerequistes for web communities that we software engineers should really care about: the technology should be easy and aware of the target groups. Otherwise, community activities won’t emerge. The communication in the web is also different from the face-to-face-communication: it’s hard to detect emotions, you don’t see faces so the processing of human emotions and doesn’t work completely. Also, many people tend to be rude online because of anonymization.

Regarding my personal experience, I’m glad to have the possibility to meet people on our HTW campus and have both presence and web communities. Without the need to be physically present in lectures, it would be hard to motivate yourself.

Exam Question

We were told to write down a potential exam question because that shows that we need to think about the learning content, the target group and the learning goals.

Compare the advantages and disadvantages of Web communities and classical student cohorts (e.g. lectures). 

I think, my diary entry for today should answer this question.

Learning goals

  • The student is able to define learning communities.
  • The student is also able to name and describe different varities of learning communities.
  • The student is able to develop an exam question.