Monthly Archives: August 2005

Research on Online Community Points to Convergence, Maturity

Jenny Preece’s book, “Online Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability” (Wiley & Sons, 2000) eloquently details how research on online communities informs practice in building social presence and usability of electronic tools for this purpose. However, to me the factor of establishing and maintaining social presence in the electronic environment is paramount to nurturing a successful, growing community.

In today’s elearningpost, Maish Nichani finds a great distillation of Preece’s book in this article ONline Communities: Design, Practice and Theory.

It affirms what I’ve been experiencing in building an online CoP:

1) You don’t (and most likely won’t) stick to just one tool to building an online CoP, as people will seek to find tools which are comfy for them to use. Some like e-mail, others like the blog, and others like the board. So, you need to advertise (constantly) that these tools are available to all to encourage more participation and discussion.

Having the availability of multiple tools for communication in the community speaks too, of high availabilty. That is, availability of the member’s to listen to other participant’s needs and concerns, which leads to trust-building, encourages them to reciprocate in contributing to discussion.

At the recently concluded PeLs 4th National Conference on E-learning, a participant asked why the PeLs website didn’t have the complete program details prior to the conference. And when I told him that the conference program was circulated via the group e-mail days before the conference, and that questions and discussions could also be found on the PeLs discussion board, as well as the PeLs yahoogroups. I saw his face light up when he saw there were other communication avenues. Apparently, we need to raise awareness levels on this.

This availability of multiple tools for online communications reminds me of a practice we’ve had as hardware vendors. Have a back-up system ready in case the primary system fails (I used to sell Uninterruptible Power Supplies, so back-up supply was really critical as we were protecting millions of pesos worth of data). Others call it redundancy; I call it prudence.

2) That many theories emerging on online CoP research show that this field is maturing. So the theory on weak ties building good opportunities for online information exchange and trust-building; or that you can sustain online CoPs only when an offline CoP exists are lost in the myriad of studies done on CoP–these are two of so many experiences that have been explored in the research field. The theories diverge even more when you talk about using CoP building for formal education, such as that of Garrison and Anderson. Or CoP building for professional groups and corporates, such as the one of Etienne Wenger, which I find highly practical for the informal learning and lifelong learning set-up.

This all just means that more people are increasing using the Net and CMC to sustain social relationships. And the two worlds of our Communities are increasingly becoming one.

What do you have to say about your own CoP participation?

4th PeLs Conference: creative ICT use with Blogs

Just got details on papers to be presented at the Philippine E-learning conference this August 25-26, 2005, via the Yahoogroups e-mail from Dra. Suplido, our dedicated PeLs Director (but due to my limited knowledge of attaching files in Blogger, couldn’t yet post the PDF file here!).

I would be honored if Dra. Suplido can grant us an interview here and share her experiences about blogging in education. She will be capping the conference with her demonstration of Blogs as a tool for self-expression, knowledge-sharing and community building.

I’m encouraged to see from the program outline that through Dra. Suplido’s discussion, blogging will get its formal acknowledgement in Philippine e-learning society as a potentially powerful, online collaboration tool for use in the classroom.

True, there are quite a number of Pinoy bloggers out there using blogs for advocacies and community building (just check out the iblog site, and you’ll see).

In the academe, our esteemed PeLs President, Dr. Benito Teehankee, provides us with a great example of blogs as a tool for teaching. His first entry sounds as noble as it is useful: “..I’ve started blogging to share my thinking on how management can be a force for the common good” . The number of comments on the blog show that Dr. Teehankee’s writings have an appreciative audience. Dr. Teehankee, I’d be honored if you can appear on Architelago as one of my guest bloggers!

Dr. Janet Torral of Digital Filipino.com also has her own blog Behind the Scenes, which blends her work as an educator with a host of her other interests and advocacies. Dr. Torral’s blog strikes me as both content-rich as it is marketing-savvy. Creative use of content here means enticing readers who are also consumers of products.

Hence, bring in the advertising bucks while imparting useful knowledge is definitely using ICT creatively, as well as responsibly.

I’m sure there are more blogs about Philippine education out there. If you believe that to share knowledge is to serve, please come forward.

I’ve been writing for some time now about blogs and CoPs since I first launched Architelago last May 2005, and earlier on in 2004 as seen in my other blog,Shub.

Outside of the research interest I’ve had in blogs, I’ve really benefitted a lot from the self-reflection that blogging encourages me to do. My blog has been an archive of facts and feelings on these topics; its public nature lends itself well to being a soap box for knowledge sharing.

So from what I’ve gleaned from the forums and in the program, I’ve seen modest evidence that my blog has stirred others to think about the tool’s great uses in education. And that I’ve echoed other Pinoy early blog adopters’ thoughts. At the very least, blogging has served as my creative outlet. But there are signs that blogs may serve as an alternative venue for cooperative learning activities, somewhat like a kapihan in the free-forming, online congregation that it serves.

E-learning and CoPs flourish in Real Estate

Recently, I got my password to access Ayala Land, Inc. pages for its accredited, licensed real estate brokers (yes, I am a practicing realtor officially registered with the Philippines’ premiere land developer).

I was amazed to find a well-organized, rich resource base for both continuing sales education and sales information. Would it have benefitted Ayala Land to allow brokers to contribute to the site as well for their own comments? I would have welcomed a forum for independent discussion on questions about the projects. Then perhaps, brokers can trade their own experiences on handling objections, or help mentor new agents.

Ayala Land is known to be IT-savvy; their broker information system includes daily text updates via their Memo Blaster. Pretty cool. When Ayala Land created a broker affiliation programs for the first 200 brokers, their sales kit (yes, I was already with them in 1998) was a thick, green binder. Now an entire library is on the web and literally, in the palm of our hands.

How did this new knowledge portal help improve both broker knowledge as well as broker sales? How did this portal augment Ayala Land’s drive to help professionalize the way brokers would present their products? Would like to hear from the Ayala training officers how their affiliates, especially those who are non-tech savvy, utilize this new portal. How do the brokers, on the other hand, use this portal as a tool for self-mastery?

Continuing my search, I found the Pinoy Broker’s forum using PHp BB. It looked like an unmoderated community to me. But I look through the listings,and broker’s have created hundreds of active threads. Listings (listed properties) are common, and discussions usually center on asking about property details. There is evidence of coaching and helping out, and no one person seems to hold the discussion. What does this say about growing ‘organic communities’ online?