when is a community not a community?

In response to mark's suggestion that we contribute to a discussion about why we are in this community has stimulated a question for the group - when is a community not a community?
If you all think about any communities/groups you may belong to - they all have one thing in common.

Faces by Fazen

There is always a core group who seem to do everything, are always involved no matter what, and others who remain quietly on the periphery...sometimes popping up when the need arises and disappearing again. People come and go, and in some instances people are a captive audience at some time or other. I am captivated with this community, and thoroughly enjoying our progress through the course activities. For me a community is about having a common purpose or reason to meet.

The common reason for this community being formed is that we are part of a course with common goals, in terms of assessment, but also in the need to find out more about online communities. Although we all have differing reasons for participating and different expectations and because of this we will each take away different things from this experience.

Because we are an online community, we are using a range of online tools and methods to interact, and a range of activities to give us a reason to use them. We could have set up just a Blackboard discussion Board with 93 forums as they did in one iteration of this course, but we have chosen to give the class the opportunity to see how a variety of tools and strategies work - that way you can experience them and choose what will work for you in your teaching.

So I don't expect we will all feel comfortable, or warm and cozy in this community because it is challenging. But I hope that the strength of the community will be in helping each other overcome the challenges. For myself, it is a challenge because I have never used such a wide variety of tools and methods to teach an online course, and this is my first time teaching this course. I am loving it, and I don't particularly feel like I am teaching, rather I am feeling like a participant. There are so many interesting viewpoints and discussions going on. I was here because I was one of the facilitators, now I am here because I am finding it fascinating - Although I am spending far too much time participating.

I have also found out a lot about different online communities and some of the theoretical underpinnings by listening to the guest speakers. I am learning so much. I now know that online communities are not just about Gilly Salmon's five-step emoderating model or about asynchronous or synchronous discussions. They are so much more. You will see what I mean if you look at the list we compiled last night in the wiki - onlinecommunities. The new page we invite you all to contribute to along with your own discipline-specific page.

The overall aim of this course is to get everyone to the facilitator phase (development - stage five - relates to Gilly Salmon's five-stage model) of being in an online community and to get there there are other phases to pass through e.g. access to the tools and strategies (access - stage one) getting to know the community (socialisation - stage two), sharing knowledge and information (information sharing - stage three), creating knowledge and resources (knowledge building - stage four) .