Online spaces to online places

As I have begun to work alongside a new intake of researchers I am reminded of the very human feelings, anxiety, apprehension and trepidation, that are experienced by those who are starting a new course, and particularly, starting a fully online course. The initial days and weeks of a researcher’s experience on the BA Learning Technology Research leads them to a number of online spaces, including email, an e-portfolio, message board, online registration system, external software download sites and an online community. Just like standing in a campus in Fresher’s week it can be very disorientating until the spaces click in to place and the cognitive maps are built. As researchers interact with the online spaces, little by little, they give something of themselves to the space and so gain, attachment and history. If the difference between space and place is meaning, perhaps part of the induction process is to develop meaning to help those alienating spaces become meaningful places. To facilitate the process, facilitators need to offer support to encourage the processes of familiarisation and orientation, they should offer and support opportunities to encourage interaction and therefore early creation of personal meaning on virtual spaces.

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