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Pursuing the Elusive Metaphor of Learning Community In Formal and Non-Formal Settings

, University of Saskatchewan, Canada


Much of what we understand about the notion of online learning communities and how they develop, grow and die away is based on examinations of formal online learning environments — primarily on post-secondary courses managed by institutions of higher learning. Formal environments typically require learners to engage each other online in prescribed, externally defined ways. As effective as formal environments may be, paying exclusive attention to them limits our understanding of the nature of learning communities. Non-formal learning environments, by contrast, impose fewer controls on learner activities and collaboration among participants is not required. There is a need to extend basic theory on virtual learning communities (VLCs) to elaborate our understanding of learning and pedagogical practices in non-formal online learning environments. This presentation extends what we have learned about learning communities in formal and non-formal online environments and considers how learners make use of social interaction to enhance learning. This research causes us to speculate about whether “community” is a failed metaphor for understanding dynamic learning phenomena and social interaction, and also considers the pedagogical and research challenges non-formal learning environments present.


Schwier, R. (2009). Pursuing the Elusive Metaphor of Learning Community In Formal and Non-Formal Settings. Presented at EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2023 from .