Informed Design of Educational Activities in Online Learning Communities

Informed Design of Educational Activities in Online Learning Communities

Urban Carlén (University of Skövde, Sweden) and Berner Lindström (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-080-4.ch007

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to sketch design implications for organizing online educational activities in higher education that will intentionally engage medical students and professionals in the field together. When using an online forum, which is already embedded in the work practice, participants can build an online learning community (OLC) to discuss specialist subjects. This chapter is based on findings derived from a larger case study about participation in a professional OLC in general medicine. The proposal of an educational activity will complement numerous online activities with a more structured form of learning. As long as participants are challenged in learning about the specialist subject, they will contribute to the collective account. Online participation can be one way to foster students in becoming doctors. Together with qualified professionals, medicine students can create and sustain relationships over their professional careers.
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Introduction

People create relationships and ties in social networks (Haythornthwaite, 2008). At work, building professional networks is an important part of structuring a professional field. Professionals engage together in order to gain advantages both collectively and individually (Beaulieu, Rioux, Rocher, Samson, & Boucher, 2008). Networking is not merely a strategy to stay attractive on the market; it also offers participants opportunities to share knowledge and experiences related to what they do at work. In contemporary work life, employees need to continue to educate themselves because of changes at work. Freidson (2001) claims that professional networks are developed over time. People in medicine use an array of networked technologies, from which we can learn how to establish and maintain professional networks. Allan and Lewis (2006) show how the continual change in professional fields pushes people to update themselves more regularly by using the Internet. Online communication can generate forms of continual professional development in the medical practices (Boudioni, McLaren, Woods, & Lemma, 2007; Thompson et al., 2008; Thorley, Turner, Hussey, & Agius, 2009). In medical practices, email lists are frequently used for communicating and collaborating online. This kind of online forum is already embedded in medical professionals’ daily work, which makes it an extraordinarily powerful tool for creating continual forms of professional development (Carlén, 2010; Fox & Roberts, 1999; Hew & Hara, 2008; Karagiannis & Vojnović, 2008; Thomas & James, 1999). We argue here that participation in online learning communities (OLCs) can bridge the gap between professional practice and higher education.

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