Benefits to Students: Community Building

Without community, collaboration cannot occur, and collaboration and work in virtual teams assists in solidifying community. With this foundation, the stage is set for socially constructed meaning-making and acquisition of knowledge.
~Palloff and Pratt, 2005, p. 16

From "The Rhetorics of Virtual Communities": a Learning Module for Rhetoric and the WWW~~

... scientist and humanitarian Ursula M. Franklin (The Real World of Technology [1999]), strongly emphasizes locale in her critique of the effects of electronic technology on community.... sharing, common, fellowship, organization, and locality [are] among the key concepts that define community. Franklin contends that community relies to a large extent on physical locale and believes we can’t genuinely experience community through the mediation of electronic technology. Her concept of "a genuine community" (p. 158) is also inseparable from reciprocity, the interpersonal give-and-take that she argues can take place only through live contact....
external image Franklin.jpg
[Thus,] virtual environments are only “pseudocommunities” (p. 42) whose existence militates against real social experiences. Virtual environments can never give rise to "real" or "genuine" communities. Though Franklin does not explicitly define "real" or "genuine," she strongly implies a dependence on live interactions among people physically located in the same space.

(Click here to view the entire learning module.)

It's helpful for students engaged in the early stages of online collaborative writing to consider "community" ... and particularly whether or how it's possible to build viable, vital, humanistic communities in wholly online environments. Their thinking and discussions around community building can enrich their own online collaborative experience. One "best practice" for online collaborative writing preparation is to invite students to consider Franklin's notion that communities depend on physical locale, and also interrogate utopian visions of online communities, such as Howard Rheingold's “family of invisible friends … people around the world [who] carry on public conversations” (1993, p. 1) and who have the potential to build a new virtual "social commons” (p. 12).

Palloff and Pratt (1999) believe that "[o]ur communities today are formed around issues of identity and shared values; they are not place-based" (p. 25). If so, then what "shared values" should our students forefront in building virtual collaborative writing communities?



Franklin, U. (1999). The Real World of Technology. Toronto: House Anansi Press.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community: homesteading on the electronic frontier. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.