Best practices: Using Moodle™ to create communities of practice
Communities of Practice are formed when groups of practitioners who share a passion for something come together in an effort to improve in this area. The learning that takes place among members is not necessarily intentional. It develops naturally through the process of information sharing and it is through this experience that members have the opportunity for professional growth.
A successful Community of Practice (CoP) generates excitement around topics of relevance creating a value that attracts and engages members. Here are Open LMS we use CoPs in our Open LMS TRAIN packages to assist our clients in supporting their staff in mastering Joule and Moodle™ and improving their e-learning courses. In today’s blog post we’ll discuss how you can create a CoP in Moodle™ to support communities within your organization.
Design for organic growth
CoP design often involves fewer elements at the start than a typical online course. The key is to draw in and engage potential members. Once users are engaged other elements of the CoP can be introduced. Consider starting your CoP with just three main topics. Within these topics you’ll be able to address a variety of needs while allowing the CoP to develop organically. Later once established you can add topics as needed.
Focus on delivering value
Value is key to a successful CoP because participation in most cases is voluntary. Early value comes from focusing on the current problems and needs of users through small easy to use tools and interactions. Over time the CoP develops a body of knowledge that can easily be accessed and the value becomes more apparent early on for new members.
Advanced forums allow users to sort and search discussions easily as well as subscribe to specific topics rather than having to subscribe to the entire forum. Consider creating opportunities for problem solving through informal discussion in a Help forum. This forum acts as a ticket system for tracking questions and issues related to the CoP’s focus and helps create connectedness in the community not just among your tech or training teams. As questions are answered consider moving them in to other more focused Advanced forums building a series of FAQ resources for new members to refer to.
To foster the exchange of information consider using the Glossary module. Enabling the Allow comments on entries option will cultivate community involvement allowing users to leave comments furthering the knowledge shared.
Welcome varied levels of participation
Members participate in communities for a variety of reasons so it would follow that their level of engagement would vary as well. What’s more members move through these levels as the focus of the community shifts to different areas of interest and expertise. Welcome all levels of participation in your CoP through variety. While the Advanced forums and Glossaries mentioned above might engage your more active members consider creating Folders to house documentation and URLs connecting to related resources in order to create value for less engaged members as well.
Create a routine
Building routine in to your CoP contributes to a sense of familiarity creating comfort inviting honest dialogue and establishing a sense of cooperation. Regular meetings site activity and informal gatherings help establish a habit of engagement.
Using the Calendar block to publish upcoming activities helps community members plan their time accordingly. The Choice module can be used to gather registrations for time sensitive events like professional development trainings team meeting and guest led forums. Open LMS Joule users can incorporate Personalized Learning Designer rules to automate reminder emails and grant access to restricted areas.
Consider pairing these routine events with other community activities to maximize the information’s reach. Wikis are a great way to publish community notes. Encourage all community members to read and contribute not just attendees. These shared spaces allow for ongoing conversation and connection long after a time sensitive event has passed.
The ultimate goal of CoP design is draw upon the community's own culture goals and energy to realize its unique potential and strengthen itself and its members in order to take part in knowledge management.
“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others for their sakes and for our own.” – Cesar Chavez
Check out this video on creating Advanced forums like the ones suggested above.