Is it Possible to Have Community… Virtually?

Is it even possible to build a sense of community when you are not physically present? In conference calls? In On-line tele-classes or classrooms? Within threaded discussions?

Before we go after the topic… a humorous look at why virtual has its challenges and limits. Take a look!

It’s popular to minimize the impact of the virtual, but with the cost of travel and lodging, and the growing limits to resources, all point to the reality, and place, for the electronic. What can virtual do for an individual or a group?

  1. Sense of belonging. Communities are places where members “first” feel a sense of belonging; where participants sense they are part of the group. You can gain an initial level of connection from the on-line.
  2. Mutual support.  While on-line is limited to help people handle major life problems, healing and real-life transformation, if done right it can offer a connect that members otherwise would not have access to.
  3. Collective influence. Participating in a group can create greater level commitment; we are better together. On-line communities encourage those who are geographic/functionally isolated. They help tribes and tribal members not feel so alone.
  4. Exploration. They allow members to explore new ideas and approaches that previously would not have been  accessible to them, and link to resources they had not known about or found.

Having interacted in the world of phone conference calls,  Skype coaching and GoToMeeting tele-classes over the last ten years, here are some thoughts in light of our passion to see breakthrough and transformation.

THREE Lessons About Community-Technology

Build Community First with Face-to-Face

Some of the most effective times I have experienced in on-line community, have first been preceded by intensive face-to-face, on-site community. The most effective on-line tele-classes I have led were preceded by our our 4-day, on-site Coach Certification Training.

Understand the Value of Both

Use on-line, phone interaction conferencing, and threaded discussions to prepare individuals for meeting,  dispense new information and ideation, or extend the learning of core paradigms. Leave the processing, application and moments of healing/transformation to the face-to-face, with real-time reactions.

Face-to-Face Online Better than Threaded

Skype or GoToMeetings where video are involved are not like being in the same room, but they are better than threaded or phone alone. Seeing is believing. Coaching and meetings where there is at video face-to-face can build a limited sense of community.

THREE Simple Practices When Using the On-line for Community-Teaching

Pace – When using on-line… always be conscious of pace. Keep things moving. Know where you want things to go, and do not let things drag. Pace helps to overcome the distractions that are all around the participants.

Vary – When using on-line… always be unpredictable. From meeting to meeting, from one training approach to the next, use a constant variety of approaches and methods to keep meetings interesting and curious.

Call Out – Keep a list of who you call on. Keep all the people involved. Call on them randomly. Change the type of feedback you ask for: “What do you think?” “Rank that for me!” “Trouble shoot that?” “Bob role play that with Mary.”

© Terry Walling 2014