From Khan Academy, to MOOCs, to fully accredited online degree programs education via the internet is exploding. As Master of Library and Information Science students we are a members of a subset of the virtual online learning community. We are online graduate students and that is my topic of studies for this semester.
Below I outline how we, the online graduate student community, embodies Durrance and Fisher’s five characteristics of an information community:
Firstly, the online graduate community fully embraces the use of emerging internet technology. We use the internet to communicate with one another through instant messages, blog posts, and discussion boards. The end results of our assignments as times may be a video created by a service such as Animoto, or a presentation recorded using conferencing software such as Blackboard Collaborate. We also participate in the exchange of ideas in the academic arena as well, through the reading of academic works and by publishing our own research in peer reviewed literature, many which are accessible through our schools’ libraries via online subscription databases and through open access journals on the web.
Secondly, the online graduate community is a diverse group with people we varying in age, life stage, academic background, and geographical location. Compared to the traditional classroom where many students are required to relocate to where their university is situated or spend time comminuting to campus, online education allows us, the students, to participate wherever we are physically located and in the case of asynchronous courses at any time during the day or night. This allows many of us who would otherwise be unable to attempt a master’s degree, due to parenting our children or looking after elders; our employment situation; geographic location; or any other reason, to participate as online graduate students. The variety each of us brings allows us to share our unique perspectives in class and in our information needs.
Thirdly, as a whole our main information needs surround that of any other academic community. We need the information resources to fulfill the requirements of our professors and ultimately our universities to successful complete our degrees be it in library and information science, theology, education, or any other discipline. Fourthly, we also have the information need to communicate with each other and professors on a more personal level to foster a sense of trust among each other. By sharing about lives with each other we are no longer aliens to each other tying away at a keyboard, but humans with families, jobs, and emotions.
Lastly, what we learn in our online graduate courses we can apply it in the context of our the greater communities. Our knowledge will allow us to participate in our work places more in-depth; think more critically about what is going on around us; and add to our enjoyment of life. Education is the foundation of fostering growth within ourselves and in our communities.
I look forward to sharing with you, my fellow online graduate students, this semester about what I learn about our community as a whole. Perhaps, what I share with you will help in your success as an online graduate student and connect you to the issues which our community encounters, thus bring us into a greater sense of community with our peers both within and outside our MILS program at SJSU iSchool.
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/community/n248.xml