Exploring the potential of online communities for distance tutors

Macdonald, Janet and Hewling, Anne (2008). Exploring the potential of online communities for distance tutors. In: Kimble, Chris; Hildreth, Paul and Bourdon, Isabelle eds. Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, Volume 2. Charlotte, N Carolina, US: Information Age Publishing, pp. 89–105.

URL: http://kn.open.ac.uk/document.cfm?documentid=8696


As the name implies, distance tutors commonly work away from campus and rarely have an opportunity for ongoing support and informal development such as that enjoyed by campus based staff. In this context we believe there is much potential in making provision for the development of online communities. This Chapter describes four case studies of the establishment and evaluation of online communities of practice at the Open University (UK). Communities of practice are in use both as a central part of course related professional development, and also for wider pedagogical issues. Platforms in use include online conferences which support online discussion, and new wiki environments which also offer the potential for extending the use of communities of practice to the development and sharing of resources. We describe the variety of ways in which communities of practice are in use, the major factors which contribute to their success, and the social and institutional challenges to sharing and developing resources within a community.

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