Online Communities of Practice: maintaining interest

The first cluster meeting was held on 19th January 2010 and hosted by The University of The Arts London. The theme was ‘Online Communities of Practice: maintaining interest’ and 5 Trial projects were represented.

Paul Lowe introduced the topic drawing upon the work of Etienne Wenger. He made the point that Communities of Practice describe a social discipline of learning and the terminology is often misused as a buzzword. Communities of Practice focus on learning and knowledge exchange. The group discussed Wenger’s various models before relating these to their own practice.

Paul showed the group the OPEN-i site describing how they had started the community and maintain interest. It is a very active site with regular well-attended webinars which also attract high viewing numbers post-event. Practitioners (community members) include academics, industry professionals, aspiring entrants (students) & alumni – all brought together for a global network. He also runs ‘Wave Day’ each Tuesday with his students, using Google Wave for project management brainstorming. The team are currently involving the practitioners in the review of the site.

Brain McCaul, University of Leeds, gave an outline of the Leeds Innovation Network and how the Trial Project is working in a number of different areas with the premise of ‘Innovation Division of Labour’. Many different communities are being brought together allowing technology transfer officers to organise external skill sets enabling people to be employed on short term contacts for specific pieces of work/research. Leeds is working with institutions in Reading, Manchester and Liverpool, using social media to find experts and outreach work.

Chris Parkin, University of Huddersfield, provided some background to his Trial Project which is working with the West Yorkshire Lifelong Learning Network, a national network with huge hierarchy attending monthly face to face meetings resulting in a lot of time being invested. They are trialling Elluminate, working with vocational training providers and encouraging online practices to save time and money. This involves breaking down the preconceptions of Elluminate etc and identifying ways of removing barriers.

There followed a general discussion about the range of tools being used within the Project and it was suggested that this could be the topic for a blog post (this will follow shortly).

The group decided to continue the discussions online (using Google Wave) and share their ‘Top Ten Tips for generating and maintaining an online community of practice’. Some of the group had not used Google Wave before and so this was also seen as personal development.

This is the first in a series of three BCEct Cluster Meetings looking at the common themes which have emerged from reports submitted, discussions and the project blogs.

The next two cluster meetings are:
• University of Huddersfield 25th February 2010 – Theme: Culture (Institutional & External)
• Birmingham Metropolitan College 31st March 2010 – Theme: Technical & IT Barriers