Title: Distributed participation in blended learning communities: actors, contexts and groups

Authors: Susanna Annese; Marta Traetta

Addresses: Department of Psychology, University of Bari 'Aldo Moro', Palazzo Ateneo – Piazza Umberto I, 1 70121 Bari, Italy. ' Department of Psychology, University of Bari 'Aldo Moro', Palazzo Ateneo – Piazza Umberto I, 1 70121 Bari, Italy

Abstract: Our basic motivation in this article is the question: what does it mean to participate in learning communities? Starting from a socio-cultural perspective of learning as a social process of participation and of participation as a social experience within 'communities of practice' (Wenger, 1998), we studied participation trajectories in three blended learning communities, characterised by the combination of various communication settings. By mixing social network analysis and qualitative content analysis, we studied - in a 'diagnosis phase' - two such blended learning communities, in order to reorganise - in a second 'action phase' - the general architecture of the blended course, and to evaluate - in a third 'maintenance phase' - the impact of this reorganisation in a third blended learning community. The three phases were aimed at improving participation dynamics in blended learning courses according to an action-research paradigm (French and Bell, 1973). Results show that a careful design can promote active participation in blended communities through the merging of different communication settings, varied membership levels, diverse group sizes and definite social cohesion practices (Annese and Traetta, 2009).

Keywords: action research; blended communities; blended learning; participation dynamics; social network analysis; SNA; learning communities; online communities; web based communities; virtual communities; communities of practice; qualitative content analysis; communication settings; membership level; group size; social cohesion.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2012.049558

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2012 Vol.8 No.4, pp.422 - 439

Available online: 08 Oct 2012 *

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