SPOT ON

Online communities are shifting our means of learning

Spot on. More people are moving to online environments to create their own learning communities beyond institutional structures, writes Pascale Mompoint-Gaillard.

31.05.2022

Spaces of learning are rapidly evolving in these present tumultuous, complex and uncertain times. Do I still need schools, programmes or institutes to find what I need to learn?

Lately, my experience has been ‘no, no longer’.

Even if we are familiar with social media platforms that invade our private and working life, many of us are less familiar with online communities and circles that are set to change something in the world.

I still invest 4 to 8 hours a week in my small learning communities.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, joining non-formal groups and circles took on a new importance. As lockdowns were closing schools, suddenly my mailbox filled with invitations to join groups of practitioners gathering to redefine their activities, to co-invent new venues for collaboration and learning.

Embodiment, awareness-based practice, paradigm shifting, human-centred development, wellbeing, governance and change, decolonisation, climate activism – in all sorts of fields I could join new groups, no longer doing it just to promote different organisations, but rather to gather informally and learn together.

I joined dozens of such groups in the months following the lockdowns.

I learned a lot, more than any single programme had taught me in recent years. In some of these spaces, deep, meaningful learning occurred and that ‘thing’ we were set to transform turned out to be our own self.

LOCKDOWNS ARE OVER but the shift stays: I still invest 4 to 8 hours a week in my small ‘learning communities’. These circles are enticing, whereas I now get so bored in traditional courses and training.

My point is that our means of learning have started to change and will remain changed forever. Increasingly, groups are leaving the traditional pathways, and using online environments to create their own learning communities beyond habitual institutional structures.

Powerful conversational communities are paving the way for personal and professional transformation and social change. The knowledge we develop, collectively in conversation – often called ‘co-construction of knowledge’ – is learning that it is embedded in stories, in experiences and in our body as we engage with one another in dialogue.

As we continue engaging in global conversations, there is the possibility that we will never want to go back to institutional formal learning alone to shape our growth.

The slow negotiation of finding common ground and ethos, distributed leadership and the questioning of world views and assumptions all contribute to the creation of ‘community microcultures’ in which our identities may evolve.

ONE COULD THEN ARGUE  that there is no such thing as ‘mere’ conversation because engaging in conversation always involves learning if we are loyal to its principles and practices.

As we continue engaging in global conversations, there is the possibility that we will never want to go back to institutional formal learning alone to shape our growth.

We might instead choose to become immersed in learning though the communities we choose to learn in and from. This is particularly important now, as prospering in a world of wild disruption requires us to develop ‘our selves’ at a rapid pace.

If you want to learn something today, I invite you to create a community of interested peers to teach each other. You have great chances to learn just what you need, just when you need it.