Virtual Learning Community Project

TitleVirtual Learning Community Project
Duration1 Year
Project Summary


The goals of this project are to design, develop, and integrate an on line virtual learning community in the Undergraduate Medical Expansion Program, Faculty of Medicine.

The following objectives will assist in achieving these goals:

  1. Develop needs assessment and evaluation criteria for researching, developing, and integrating an online virtual knowledge sharing community. The community will facilitate communication, collaboration, interaction, and participation between and amongst medical students throughout British Columbia.
  2. Based on the needs assessment, develop an online technology that will support the virtual knowledge sharing community environment of medical students.
  3. Implementation of the technology and learning community.
  4. Promote, encourage, and coach students on the use of virtual learning communities.
  5. Increase research component regarding virtual learning and knowledge sharing communities in medical education and other disciplines.


With the increase in the number of medical students and the transition to geographically distributed sites of program delivery (Expansion), the role of information and communication technology in the learning environment greatly increases. Communication technology allows for groups to build new communities based on mutual interests rather than on geography. This becomes increasingly important as medical student disperse to different regions throughout the province. Virtual learning communities represent groups that not only share mutual interests, but also social network capital, and knowledge capital. The learning theory of social constructionism suggests that individual learning is enhanced by shared constructive activity in the social setting. Thus, learning, knowledge building, and knowledge acquisition are greatly enhanced by interaction and collaboration with others. A virtual learning community has to ability to greatly enhance how this occurs.


The development of the project will reflect a community approach. Coordination of the project and educational expertise will be provided through the Division of Educational Support and Development (DESO) in the Faculty of Medicine (FoMD). The process will involve three phases:

  • Phase I (-June 2005): The opening phase will focus on developing a valid needs assessment model and evaluation criteria. A working group will be formed that includes students, faculty, and staff. The working group will coordinate conduct research on virtual learning community theory and evaluate this research. The working group will also organize, conduct, and summarize several focus groups sessions with Faculty of Medicine students, faculty, and staff. Emphasis will be placed on basing the model and evaluation criteria in accepted pedagogical theory. The Project and Assistant Project Coordinator will oversee this phase of the project with the help of two medical students.
  • Phase II (June – September 2005): The second phase will focus on the development of the technology environment to support the virtual learning community. By the end of phase 11, the team will have developed a virtual learning community technology product. The student graphic designer and programmer will work in collaboration with each other developing and customizing the virtual learning community environment. Students, faculty, and staff involvement will continue by conducting focus and workgroup sessions regarding the design and development of the project. Students, faculty and staff will also be involved in the discussions on how best to implement the technology into the curriculum. Educational experts will be used to incorporate sound pedagogical learning principles and provide consultation in the design process and user interface functionality.
  • Phase III (September 2005 – Ongoing): The final phase will focus on piloting and implementing the virtual learning environment. An important consideration with any community is the support for an atmosphere of adventure. Through the piloting of the project, support and encouragement will be essential in encouraging participants to use the community. Feedback and user input will be essential for this phase. At this point, final adjustments will be made and the final evaluation will begin.
Funding Details
Year 1: Project YearYear 1
Year 1: Funding Year2005/2006
Year 1: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 1: Principal InvestigatorJustin Bonzo
Year 1: Funded Amount44,314
Year 1: Team Members

Justin Bonzo, Educational Support and Development, Faculty of Medicine
Santiago Toro-Posada, Content Expert, Educational Support and Development, Faculty of Medicine
Chad Trytten, Student, Computer Science and Cognitive Systems