Peripheral and Semi-Peripheral Community: A New Design Challenge for Learning at Scale

Abstract: Existing attempts to foster a greater sense of community in online education have largely focused on direct interactions among students in peer review, forums, and other mechanisms. In this paper, we pose a new design challenge for learning at scale: peripheral community. Peripheral community is the sense of community derived from peripheral interactions in which a student has visibility into others’ behaviors without a direct, intentional interaction occurring between the students. We argue for the value of peripheral community by examining opportunities for such visibility in residential learning environments. We then explore possible ways to supply peripheral community, both in the form of new initiatives and in reinterpretations of existing interventions as fostering peripheral community.

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