I should start by telling you that i’m not going to answer this question today. But i’m working on it. In social learning spaces, online environments that extend and deepen the learning experience, the nature of relationships becomes of increasing interest. Trust and integrity are vital for the disclosure and collaboration that deliver results. Social learning spaces are different from true informal social spaces in that they have purpose beyond the pure abstract relationship. They are directed, intended to support learning, albeit in an informal way!
I believe that there are differences, quantifiable differences, in the relationships that are originated in the ‘real’ world from those that are founded online. Whilst both can be strong, both can be challenging and both can be productive, there is something inherently different about meeting someone in person, about the totally synchronous nature of the real world as opposed to the virtual.
I guess that technology increasingly removes this divide, but short of fully immersive video environments, typically the online world is includes more text and discussion, less audio and video. There is an inbuilt moderation and self reflection in this type of discussion.
So i’m setting out to look at how these things are different. I’m working with a small group to try and quantify the nature of their social connections, to characterise how they have formed and developed and to think about which measures we can use to explore the strength and depth of them. It’s not that i think that these relationships are stronger or weaker, but i do think that they are different.
The impacts of understanding this are that we should be better able to choreograph how the semi structured relationships that form a social learning activity are built. If we find quantifiable differences in relationships that are forged in the real world then we will be able to factor this into how and when we bring people together to work and when we encourage them to connect in the social spaces. If we find that the virtual simply deepens the relationship or unlocks new dynamics, then we can seek to understand these and leverage value for learning.