Friday, July 20, 2007

An Instructional Design Model for Building Wisdom Communities

WisCom – Instructional Design Model for Virtual Wisdom Communities

Many teachers are unfamiliar with emerging social networking tools. Those who are aware have legitimate concerns about appropriate use in the classroom. Creating a K-12 Web 2.0 consortium of teachers who will research new social networking tools, evaluate their use, and brainstorm educational applications would provide a knowledge framework for those who want to learn more. The goal of this article review was to explore possible instructional design models that would maximize the learning potential of this community.

Most traditional instructional design models are adaptable to a wide variety of instructional situations. All seem to require some level of planning, design, development, and evaluation. Some variation of this process could be applied to create a learning community. But, might there be benefits to custom design methods created specifically for building effective virtual learning communities? This question prompted a search that initially spanned three topic areas: creating virtual learning communities, instructional design methodologies for learning communities, and social construction of knowledge as a pedagogical foundation for instructional design. A number of articles were reviewed that provided a deeper understanding of the pedagogical foundations in constructivist theory and computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL). However, the literature was narrowed to focus on two articles, one that defined the educational design of different virtual learning communities, and another that outlined an instructional design model for building wisdom communities.

Categories of Virtual Learning Communities for Educational Design, by Rocci Luppicini identifies the following categories of virtual learning communities: knowledge building, inquiry, practice, culture, socialization, and counseling and development (Luppicini, 2003). While Luppicini does not define an expressed instructional design model per se, he does offer distinguishing characteristics of each type of learning community and necessary elements for successful implementation. These are certainly useful components of design.

Participants in virtual learning communities of knowledge building may initially work independently or in groups with the ultimate goal of contributing the collective information to all participants. Used primarily for formal learning, design elements include active moderators and opportunity for input from outside the community. Virtual learning communities of inquiry bring people together with a common purpose or goal. Everyone shares the responsibility for contributing content conducive to meeting that goal. Also a formal learning environment, members are encouraged to collaborate to meet the goal. Virtual learning communities of practice provide a means for practicing a role or learning a skill or profession. It can serve as an apprenticeship for those roles or professional practices. Designed for a structured, formal learning experience, the goal is to assimilate into the professional practice by collaborating with others while following the structured guidelines. Virtual communities of culture bring together people with similar histories or traditions to share values and customs in an informal learning setting. Virtual communities of socialization focus on participants with common interests who seek to communicate or socialize with other like-minded people. Virtual communities of counseling and development provide group support. Their purpose is to facilitate individual growth (Luppincin, 2003).

Our proposed K12 Web 2.0 Consortium overlaps the virtual communities of knowledge building and inquiry. Knowledge building “allows members to construct communal databases of information” (Luppincin, 2003, p. 411). One group goal is to research and archive information about Web 2.0 applications. Another group goal is to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats posed by various social networking tools and make decisions about their use in school. Inquiry communities apply the principals of problem-based learning. “Participants in problem-based learning work in groups to solve real problems that are often complex and require seeking out a variety of resources to generate possible solutions” (Luppincin, 2003, p. 412). The following design elements should be considered when creating the K12 Web 2.0 learning community: active moderation, focus on learning goals, relay importance of individual expression while emphasizing responsibility to contribute and collaborate, and opportunity for outsiders to participate (Luppincin, 2003).

Once the virtual learning community is defined, and design elements are considered, a formal instructional design process provides a framework for executing the project. New Model, New Strategies: Instructional design for building online wisdom communities by Charlotte N. Gunawardena, et al. defines learning innovation as the “purposeful creation, sharing, and preservation of meaningful, socially constructed ideas” (Gunawardena, et al., 2006, p. 221). It further asserts that “the practical benefits of knowledge innovation include the ability to get the right information to the right people, ensure that knowledge is not lost (even when community membership changes), and enable communities to more readily build on past successes and learn from challenges” (Gunawardena, et al., 2006, p. 221). Knowledge innovation unfolds in phases. Community participants create knowledge. That knowledge is then recorded and accessed by others. Knowledge is enabled once participants know how to use it.

Gunawardena, et al. identifies five steps in the instructional design process of building wisdom communities. The following is a summary of the WisCom process:
1. Learning Challenge – Participants view a case study, identify a problem, or expose and issue. Design should include open-ended, authentic performance tasks that benefit from sharing opinions. Skill level and prior knowledge must be considered. The communication model should promote creative, orderly discussion and input.
2. Initial Exploration – Individual ideas are shared with the goal of fostering a shared group identity over time. Expectations, ground rules, obligations, and communication avenues are defined and communicated. System for recording is established with provision for feedback cycle. Evaluation method is considered.
3. Resources - Individual perspectives are challenged and negotiated. Mentors with appropriate level of expertise are selected to help facilitate this process.
4. Reflection – Time is allotted for individual reflection and thinking. Some structure and guidance may be provided.
5. Preservation – Share content is recorded and preserved. Concept maps were provided as one useful tool for constructing and preserving knowledge.
(Gunawardena, et al., 2006)

Other instructional design methods may be applicable to components of the virtual learning community. However, the WisCom Model provides enough structure and guidance to initiate and support the development of our K12 Web 2.0 Consortium. The learning challenge for this wisdom community is to research new social networking tools, evaluate their use, and brainstorm educational applications. Each of these goals also represents the open-ended tasks assigned to group members. A context and procedure for identifying and researching social networking tools will serve as the initial exploration. A wiki or collaborative blog could be used as a system for recording. Technology experts within and outside of the school will be selected as potential resources for the project. Once the initial review is complete, time will be allotted for reflection with a structured rubric for completing this process. The wiki can further serve as an archive for the preservation of project outcomes and recommendations from the consortium. It will be interesting to apply the model to this and other projects to determine its applicability to different types of virtual learning communities.


Gunawardena, Charlotte; Ortegano-Layne, Ludmila; Carabajal, Kayleigh; Frechette, Casey; Lindemann, Ken; Jennings, Barbara. (2006) New Model, New Strategies: Instructional design for building online wisdom communities, Distance Education. 27:2, 217-232.

Luppicini, Rocci. (2003) Categories of Virtual Learning Communities for Educational Design, The Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 4:4, 409-416.


Jeanette Delgado said...

Thanks for the references!! Jeanette Delgado

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