Burgos, D., Hummel, H., Tattersall, C., Brouns, F., Kurvers, H., & Koper, R. (2005). Influence of face-to-face meetings on virtual community activity: the case of learning network for learning design.
Virtual communities main feature is the interchange of ideas and points of view around a specific topic, frequently split into several sub-topics. This activity involves participation, both active and passive, and it feeds back the community, keeping it warm and dynamic. On the other hand, thematic face-to-face meetings build and feed existing links between their members and encourage discussions on the topic of the conference. Using the virtual community of Learning Network for Learning Design – LN4LD (OUNL, 2004) and the European project UNFOLD (UNFOLD, 2004) we monitored and analysed several data of actions taken by users, members of this learning network. Both, the virtual community LN4LD and the face-to-face meetings for UNFOLD, are fully focused on the dissemination and adoption of the specification IMS Learning Design and keep a strong shared relationship chasing this common objective. Between January and June 2005 UNFOLD organized three face-to-face meetings. After the measuring and interpretation of all the data collected along this period, we are able to demonstrate that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between the organization of face-to-face meetings and the increase of registered users and the related actions taken by them inside the virtual community. We hypothesize that virtual communities of non-structured learning get more internal activity when supplemented with face-to-face meetings. This means that the face-to-face relationships increase and make stronger virtual links and they encourage the activity in the learning network. Along this case study we also show that it was multiplied by six the amount of actions taken by users and by four the amount of registered users. This paper provides a full detailed report on all the process and about the reading of the results that support the initial hypothesis. Supplementary, and in order to focus the topic of research and our approach, we also describe the theoretical background underneath the case study and a specific summary of the current panorama on virtual communities about IMS LD.