Keep Your Online Community Alive!
by Ken Rhodes
Graduate Student, California State University Hayward
As the creator of an online community, you may be called on to perform many tasks...from designing and developing the environment to gathering the members. No task you perform will be as important as that of nurturing your online community. You will be responsible for keeping it interesting, useful and most importantly, alive! You can do this by being a proactive nurturer, someone who finds leaders, addresses conflicts, and staves off boredom.
Leaders emerge in every community and yours will be no different. This is good because they can help keep things going when you need to be away. Your task is to identify leaders early and help them stay motivated about leading the community. In a corporation, this can be accomplished by asking a leader to become a system expert, someone possessing superior knowledge of a specific topic.
Also, you can recognize their work by incorporating it into a permanent part of the website. One way to accomplish this is to use their ideas and posts as the basis for a FAQ.
Eventually, there will be problems. As the creator, it is your role to monitor for these conflicts, and work quickly to diffuse them. Otherwise participants will wander off thinking that the online community is even more chaotic than the one in which they live offline. In small and mid-sized companies disagreements most often develop over procedures, policies, and practices that are not clearly documented. Act quickly to find the correct answer, or act as a mediator until a common ground is found. Remember your purpose is to resolve the conflict swiftly and fairly.
Something that will kill an online community quickly is boredom. Boredom sets in when members feel they have become stagnant-no longer actively pursuing a goal. As a proactive nurturer look for stagnant areas, then act as a catalyst to get the group moving again. A corporate trainer, after finding that everyone has mastered a particular skill, may prompt an employee to use this skill differently.
In conclusion, after an online community is designed and built, it must be nurtured. You must identify, provide a motivating environment for, and guide the leaders who will naturally emerge. Be sensitive to conflicts, and have a plan for dealing with problems. This will help prevent chaos and the resultant loss in membership. Lastly, you must work to fight off boredom and foster active participation by all members.
Towards Understanding Community (2002). Community. Retrieved February 8, 2002 from the World Wide Web:
Haughey, M. (2001). Building an Online Community: Just Add Water
DigitalWeb. Retrieved February 10, 2002 from the World Wide Web:
About Ken Rhodes...
Ken is a systems analyst and trainer for a mid-sized company located in the San Francisco, CA area. Currently he is developing an online learning tool that will be used by over 250 employees worldwide. He recently completed the California State University, Hayward certificate program for Online Teaching and Learning.
Curricular Science the 'Curry' way!
by P R Guruprasad
I am a teacher trainer. I had spent my boyhood in rural Southern India. In those days, fifty years back, most classroom teaching was teacher-centered and chalk n' talk. But then, I was lucky to learn all my lesson concepts from my mother back home; she used to teach all subjects by relating the textbook concepts to 'my' everyday experiences. I have seen her putting simple science concepts into domestic use. Let me describe a how she used to make use of an improvised 'pressure cooker' that she developed to cook food on a daily basis, much before the advent of 'branded' pressure cookers in the Indian market. Her pressure cooker is illustrated in the following fig. and is self-explanatory:
Click the image for a larger view.
How does it work?
The water that is heated is changed into steam [the pinch of salt increases the boiling point]. Because the cooker is a closed system [its volume remaining constant], the steam builds up pressure and temperature with the result that the food is cooked much faster than in an open pot.
Even though the device is not cosmetically impressive and perfectly scientific by today's standards, it was very cost effective and scientific 40 years back. More importantly, it did influence my learning of classroom physics concepts [Charles' Law and Elevation of Boiling Point] in an effective way.
About P R Guruprasad...
After completing his first class BSc Degree with Physics as major subject followed by BEd degree from the Univ. of Madras, he entered teaching. He taught English, Maths, Science, Physics and Chemistry in schools in India, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Botswana and South Africa. He now works as Education Officer in Macmillan India Limited. His career responsibilities include conducting teacher development workshops in Science and Maths, offering editorial assistance and developing curricular support materials.