Sunday, May 4

Effective Online Communities Of Practice – What does it take?

Literature Review and Synthesis: Online Communities of Practice - Lai, Pratt, Anderson and Stigter, 2006.

It was great to get my hands on this review as this area is very under-researched.
The first part of this report attempted to define what is and what a ‘community of practice’ isn’t.
Zacharek(1999) warned that ‘community ‘is quite possibly the most over-used word in the net industry. He states that “true community – the ability to connect with people who have similar interests – may well be the key to the digital world, but the term has been diluted and debased to describe even the most tenuous connections, the most minimal interaction...”. It was nice to see this in black and white, I agree that many of the commonly used ICT tools are used for very ‘low-levels’ of interaction i.e. Skype, twitter...
For me, the most useful part of this report was the identification of six principles for designing effective online communities of practice:
*Online CoPs require a blended approach towards development where online activities are supported by offline activities
*Online CoPs should be cultivated to grow naturally
*Online CoPs should be designed to support sociability and participation
*Online CoPs should be created to attract a diverse membership
*Online CoPs should be managed by providing for different roles
*Online CoPs should include technology designed with functionality to support sociability and knowledge sharing

I particularly like the principle related to diverse membership and see this as fundamental in creating knowledge and improving practice.
The report also described four successful online CoP’s, one was Tapped In. I joined Tapped In last week and was quick to appreciate the depth and richness of this community. The emphasis was on long-term projects rather than a ‘grab and go’ style of support.
The full report is 48pages and available here.

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