Learning: communities vs. courses (3) – experts vs. novices and competition

by Lilia Efimova on 17 October 2003

Something that I missed in my Learning: communities vs. courses link collectionMartin Dugage on the motivation for learning is the desire to access a community

The traditional professor-student relationship in a classroom setting, with grades, diplomas and the like still makes sense as a prerequisite to entering a learning community. It is a question of managing time and attention. If we start bringing in newbies who haven’t acquired the fundamentals required to participate in the learning activities of the community, we might end up annoying the top experts of the community, who might then leave for better places where people will make better use of their precious time.

I guess this comment of Martin comes from practical experiences of facilitating communities in corporate context. There are more insights on “how communities work” in the knowledge management field and sometimes I feel very sad that these experiences are not known or not recognised in educational discussion about communities (lack of interaction between these two fields is my old frustration and overcoming it directs much of my thinking).

Anyway, there is a connection between Martin’s concern and Sebastien’s recent post on experts and novices pointing to Joe Cothrel observation about opportunities that weblogs provide in enabling novices learning from “gurus” without making them frustrated with depth and scale of interactions. I believe this is the direction worth exploring.

Final comment of Martin:

I believe learning economies (and the web is definitely one) are economies of access and not economies of transaction, meaning that you had rather pay, and very dearly sometimes, to obtain free access to a community of people that you would like to resemble, than for some of the discrete services that the best of these people could offer you. Or to put it differently, you may be prepared to work like crazy to graduate from MIT, but going through MIT’s courses without being recognized (a.k.a. branded) as an MIT student is worth far less.

In learning environments, there is always some form of exclusion. C’est la vie.There are two sides here: people compete (try to get accepted) in communities that provide better learning/networking environments for them and communities compete between each other to get attention of “best” members.

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2003/10/17.html#a804; comments are here.

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