Introduction: Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning

Sasha A. Barab, Rob Kling, James H. Gray

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

96 Scopus citations


Currently, numerous educators and policy makers are advocating a move away from teacher-centered models of instruction and toward more learner-centered and community-based models. However, at present the word “community” is at risk of losing its meaning. We have little appreciation and few criteria for distinguishing between a community of learners and a group of students learning collaboratively (Barab & Duffy, 2000; Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2000; Wineburg & Grossman, 1998). Given the proliferation of terms such as communities of learners, discourse communities, learning communities, knowledge-building communities, school communities, and communities of practice, it is clear that. community has become an obligatory appendage to every educational innovation. Yet aside from linguistic kinship, it is not clear what features, if any, are shared across terms. This confusion is most pronounced in the ubiquitous “virtual community,” where, by paying a fee or typing a password, anyone who visits a web site automatically becomes a “member” of the community … Groups of people become community, or so it would seem, by the flourish of a researcher’s pen. (Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2000, p. 2, italics in original). Too little of the education literature provides clear criteria for what does and does not constitute community; the term is too often employed as a slogan rather than as an analytical category. We also know little about the educational value of employing a community model for supporting learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDesigning for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780511805080
ISBN (Print)9780521817554
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Introduction: Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this