What Does It Mean To Engage?

March 12, 2018

This article is part of our ongoing series on the essence of online learning communities — The 4 C’s: Connection, Collaboration, Content & Community


The word engagement can be a bit ubiquitous, particularly when we talk about its online version. People enjoy throwing that word around like a hot cake, which certainly does not help. I’d like to meditate on the true essence of Engagement and why it is meaningful in online communities especially. We cannot replace the magic of what happens in person when people connect and share energy, but there is a way to authentically connect online, with intention and purpose.

Connection

The first element of online engagement is fostering connection. Real connection, not just defining something as connection. What does that look like? It can be many things. For us at Dream See Do, it’s people sharing wisdom and insights with each other on Live video calls and our Live Learning Feed. Real people interacting around a galvanizing theme rooted in some form of practice and/or learning. And to us, this is the key, the combination of real interaction online, focused on a learning or growth objective, supported by others with the same goals and desires. Without these two qualities intermeshed, you are left with a lot of potential noise and chatter and no meaningful focus.


Collaboration

A second key element to online engagement is collaboration. If you can create a tool the enables collaboration in a seamless fashion, you have empowered a strong form of engagement. Look at tools like Google Apps and Slack. In their own unique ways, they each allow users to dynamically collaborate, both in parallel and asynchronously. We employ a similar model by enabling people to engage in online practice and learning in real-time and on their own time. Giving people multiple modalities in which to collaborate is essential.


Content

When people engage with one another online, it is very often around some compelling content. Social feeds are a perfect example of this. People will share ideas, thoughts and mutual support when served powerful and interesting pieces of content. One slight caveat, is that content without context can be diffuse and lack purpose. When using content in an online community setting, be thoughtful about what you share, how and when you share it!


Community

For us, cultivating a sense of community is the single most important part of supporting real online engagement. We often work directly with our learning communities to help them understand how to create a supportive and lively learning journeys, thereby motivating each of their respective clients and users to engage with their experts and peers. There are many ways to effectively cultivate your community, but it does require some experimentation and an understanding of where to begin.