BUILDING A LEARNING COMMUNITY IN THE VOCTEL PROJECT
VocTEL (Vocational Technology Enhanced Learning) is a Lifelong Learning Programme Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation project which aims to promote key competences in delivering vocational technology enhanced collaborative learning throughout Europe. Within the project, which involves participants from Wales, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus, Higher Education Universities have been working with the vocational training industry to develop a Postgraduate Certificate in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) for the vocational training industry.
This paper looks at early results from the delivery of this course and in particular attempts in the learning design to build community of practice (CoP) amongst the learners (Wenger, 1998). Wenger describes a community of practice as groups of people who have a common concern, a passion for something they do every day. He places learning in the context of participating in our lived experiences and knowing as a display of competencies of practice within the professional community in which we co-exist. Learning in this sense is a social act and the collective bonds that hold a community together as a ‘joint enterprise’ in which meaning is seen as a ‘shared repertoire’.
Online learning is now widespread in universities in developed countries. As for this training programme, Computer Mediated Communications (CMCs) provide opportunities for learning based on a collaborative approach in which learners engage with each other interactively that is argued to provide both a sense of community and can offer the conditions for a deeper level of learning engagement (Bradley and McConnell, 2008). Opportunities for engagement on this programme have been both through synchronous audio conferencing as well as asynchronous written dialogue.
We report here on the learners’ experiences of engaging with each other online and their early progress towards becoming a learning community of practitioners. Empirical evidence provides significant insights that inform our discussion.