I chanced upon Online Course Design from a Communities-of-Practice Perspective (John Smith and Beverley Trayner) in eLearn Magazine. (The title is a slight misnomer, in the authors’ practice, there are also face-to-face meetings.) As I was reading the article I found myself picking up on various points that the authors make and on the phases of community development that they describe. To me, these points and phases resonated with what we experienced, both as individuals and as a group, and how we informally evolved our learning practice.
In the article, the authors provide several ‘heuristics’ which characterise different phases of community engagement, from inception to conclusion. They choose the word ‘heuristics’ carefully, to characterise events and to indicate “the ongoing tension and contradiction” between their interpretations and that that is interpreted.
Bullet renditions of the phases, which may be repeated, are:
- Getting into the online space
- Finding your way: asynchronous discussions
- Experiencing a new kind of community
- Engaging in a larger social space
- Anticipating face-to-face engagement
- Meeting individuals face-to-face
- Participating in groups face-to-face
- Framing one’s experience in a new context provided by the group
- Diaspora: Moving back to the online space
- Online closing or transition
The authors also provide some conclusions for education and development of (largely) online Communities of Practice, the headings to their recommendations are:
- Design for learning using CPD model is productive.
- Spending time on social processes.
- Using different media to negotiate language as part of a larger process.
- Creating new possibilities: subgroups and outside experts as resources.
- Demonstration of leadership roles in different media.
- Provoking shifts in “comfort zones.”
Some of these titles are a little less explanatory than those in the first list. I won’t describe further, but instead recommend that you read the original.