Developing Communities of Practice Amongst e-Learning Students: A New Zealand Story

By Trevor Nesbit.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The aim of this paper is to explore how concepts of Communities of Practice from the Knowledge Management literature can be applied to the interactions between groups of students studying in eLearning mode. A literature review was conducted that explored the concept of a Community of Practice from the Knowledge Management literature, which then moved on to look at how these concepts could be applied in an eLearning context. Particular attention was paid to the work of Iverson and McPhee (2002), Wenger (1998), Polanyi (1996), Stenmark (2002), Nesbit (2004), Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), Skryme (2001) and Harris and Niven (2002). The concepts of “knowledge of persons as subjects and knowledge of persons as objects” as described by Matheson (2008) are also explored as well as their linkages to students involved in eLearning courses. Twelve eLearning practitioners in New Zealand from a variety of subjects were interviewed, with each interview focussing on their experiences of the emergence of a community of practice amongst their eLearning students. The outcomes of the study included that a community of practice is more likely to emerge amongst a group of eLearning students when: (a) The students have a passion to deepen their knowledge and interact with others about the topic. (b) The students already know each other, or are given a chance to get to know each other in person as part of the course. (c) The students are familiar with using the technology to socially interact. (d) The students are from similar contexts and/or share similar experiences. The results of the study are important as they highlight a number of concepts related to communities of practice from the knowledge management literature that provide a window of understanding for what takes place amongst groups of eLearning students, and as such would be of useful source of discussion for a variety of eLearning practitioners in a wide range of subject areas.

Keywords: e-Learning, Knowledge Management, Communities of Practice

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.177-186. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 596.321KB).

Trevor Nesbit

Senior Lecturer, School of Computing and School of Business, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Programme Leader for the BICT, BBIE and Graduate Diploma in ICT at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology in New Zealand. Main teaching areas include eBusiness and computer programming. Has completed two double major bachelor degrees majoring in computer science, mathematics, accountancy and operations research, and has completed a masters degree in management. A member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand and the New Zealand Computer Society. Recent research interests include Current Issues in the Design, Development and Implementation of the ICT Curriculum and Use of Knowledge Management Concepts in eLearning


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