Professional Foundations: Collaborating, Researching, and Networking

How Useful are Communities of Practice (CoP)?

I find them mostly valuable…my caveat is that one must test the waters of any community early to learn whether it’s a suitable match. Participating in the online certification course with a cohort of ID professionals is another CoP. Through this, we have tackled esoteric and concrete topics in Instructional Design: from perception and goal setting to selecting and evaluating educational tools. I have seen firsthand that they can be excellent resources for faculty as well. In the aftermath of a faculty digital pedagogy workshop that I helped to develop (a few years ago), educators connected online in a blog CoP to discuss their various applications of the available technologies and how they fared in using them. I witnessed a robust conversation for several weeks. But then, as with IDs, the conversation eventually dried up.

CoPs need engaged moderators to give them a poke/prod every now and again. As professionals, we’ get busy


Might CoPs be Useful for Student Learning?

Just about anything has potential to be useful in a classroom. However, as with seasoned professionals (IDs and educators) there must be an engaged/engaging moderator who helps guide the conversation or injects a bit of life when participation stagnates. I believe for shorter-term projects and assignments…then yes definitely COPs provide value.

3 Recommendations for Implementing


  1. Be prepared for Growth/ Change: As learners/practitioners grow in their proficiencies their need change. Consider how the community can support its members as their ‘practice’ evolves
  2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives: encourage the introduction and discussion of new perspectives that come or are brought in from outside the community of practice (Source: The Roles of Communities of practice in the Digital Age)
  3. Accept different levels of participation, The strength of participation varies from participant to participant. The ‘core’ (most active members) are those who participate regularly. There are others who follow the discussions or activities but do not take a leading role in making active contributions. Then there are those (likely the majority) who are on the periphery of the community but may become more active participants if the activities or discussions start to engage them more fully. All these levels of participation need to be accepted and encouraged within the community. (Source: The Roles of Communities of practice in the Digital Age)


How might faculty implement CoP activities for student learning?

I came to this in reading and responding to a peer’s blog post, Week 3 Reflections (Roziata Amini). She brought up the topics of CoP and Student ePortfilios in the same sentence—so I may have conflated the concepts. However, it got me started on this path. An increasing number of professional fields require a portfolio from job-seekers—be they new graduates or seasoned professionals. Starting students on the path to developing a worthwhile, peer-reviewed portfolio is an excellent way to implement a CoP.

At my university our LMS offers an ePortfolio tool that can be assigned to students to complete throughout the course of a semester…peer collaboration and feedback is allowed with this tool, a star-rating system is available, and it can be embedded in discussions OR it can exist outside of the LMDS—meaning, no need to login to view—this makes it valuable outside of the university walls.

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