Thursday, 16 July 2015

Communities and collaboration - FOS Day 4

Day 4 already, and another scenario. This time it concerns an academic who is designing a postgradute programme with a focus of workplace learning. She is concerned that students won't engage in online communities in the way she is hoping, and won't see the value in participating in online communities.

She is right to be concerned! It is incredibly difficult in my experience to achieve the level of engagement required for an effective learning community. I have experienced the benefits of such a community as a learner, but have always struggled to get my students to engage as I would like them to. I think the main reason for this (if I'm being brutally honest) is that I have tended to use the concept of a community as an optional extra in my modules rather than fully integrating it. In order to operate effectively I think the idea of the community needs to be reflected in the learning outcomes and embedded in the learning activities and the assessment.

In the scenario presented, I would suggest the following approaches:

  1. The learning outcomes could include a reference to working collaboratively in an online environment. 
  2. The scheduled learning activities could effectively require participation in, for example, discussion boards or wikis.
  3. The assessment criteria could require students to demonstrate how they have drawn on their participation in the community.
Additionally, I would refer again to the importance of learning design (apologies for going on about this all the time). The programme should be designed to build the community, rather than designed around the content with the community added on afterwards. Gilly Salmon promotes an approach to learning design which she calls Carpe Diem, and is based on her 'Five-stage model'. 
Gilly Salmon's Five-stage model. Image source:

Of particular relevance in the context of this scenario is that the first two stages involve 'access and motivation' and 'online socialisation', so the course is designed to ensure a transition into the community,

By coincidence, in my current seconded role, working on a university-wide project related to learning and teaching, I have been developing a framework for 'internal' communities of practice as a means of sharing best practice. This has been challenging to say the least, but I think we are making some progress and we are starting to get some buy-in from colleagues. 

I'm going to cheat a bit here. I'm not going to create a comic, but I am going to include a graphic of the framework which I have developed with colleagues here at Westminster to show how we would like our communities to operate. This hasn't been approved internally yet, so it is still very much a work in progress.


  1. This a very interesting model and I very much like the interconnectedness. One aspect I's like to learn more about is the online platform to support communities. How will this be used to support new or prospective members of the 3 groups? How will online socialisation be addressed. Look forward to your responses!

  2. Hi Sue
    Good question! We have recognised the importance of maintaining the engagement beyond the face to face contact of the communities, and we have wondered what the best platform is likely to be. We have an existing Learning & Teaching Resources site which is on a Wordpress platform, and we are enquiring about getting a plug-in for it to enable online discussion forums. I have seen a site based in Canada which adopts this approach. The bulk of the site is publicly accessible, but you have to be a member of the community to participate in the discussions. That site is here:

    Any other suggestions welcome.