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IST 520 ON SP18 Group Project 1

Talking Paper – Online Communities of Practice

Team 4:
Luay Askar
David Cunha
Lisa Emanuelson
Kalsoom Sanad Shah

PURPOSE: To provide colleagues with information on Collaborativist Communities of Practice

1. Principal Elements and Ideas Related to the Theory

a. Collaborativism is the foundation for Online Communities of Practice (OCoP) and states
that learning can be and is a social activity with knowledge creation through communal
knowledge building and understanding.

b. Online Communities of Practice diverge from Collaborativism in that OCoP are not
moderated by an instructor or teacher and that the community directs itself to learn what
is necessary to address the issue or problem at hand.

c. Communities of practice generally have no curriculum, no degree, and no teacher.

Instead understanding and knowledge are developed, constructed, and advanced through
interaction of the community or group.

d. Members of an Online Community of Practice can share a profession, interests, language,

tools, but not necessarily the same facility, city, state or country and communicate via the

2. Social Conditions/Economic/Technological Context

a. Collaborative Learning Theory is an inductive theory where learning takes place outside
the classroom and includes the way we learn throughout our lives. Hrdy (2009)
mentioned that the ability to intentionally collaborate defines the fundamental nature of
the human being. Based upon this theory, the Online Community of Practice (OCoP) was

b. The social indicators for the success of any OCoP, also called the social discourse,
demonstrates how well the OCoP is developing socially.

c. Social success of any OCoP is measured by the activity and sustainability of its members.
Economic gain is measured through whether the final outcome has a direct influence on

d. The influence of technology on any OCoP includes the quality and ease of use of an
OCoP forum and open source educational environment. Technology further influences
scientific advances through efficiency and speed of communication. Therefore, the
challenge for the designer is not only computation but also pedagogical.

3. Positive Contributions

a. Provided the foundation for collaborativism

The foundation of collaborativism can be traced back to older technologies developed in
the 40’s, 60’s, and 70’s. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s, however, that collaborativism was
able to flourish because of the widespread growth of the internet and personal computers.
Online forums, video conferencing, and other forms of communication made possible by
the internet are all forms of collaborativism.

b. Contributed to awakening interest in scientific observation of collaborativism

While elements of collaborativism started as early as 1945 via the Memex (a hypothetical
device that could store information that could be called upon to retrieve and share that
data), it wasn’t until the 1990’s with the surge of the internet that collaborativism really
took off. The mass adoption of the internet and devices that can communicate with each
other opened the door for a surge in collaborativism.

c. Did the theory generate interest in application to learning?

Collaborativism and the widespread adoption of the internet generated a new interest in
the application to learning. It took the internet to get collaborativism and collaborative
style learning and teaching methods to take off. Collaborative tools and techniques
continue to grow and evolve with the ever changing and expanded use of the internet.
What was once extremely hard to do (live video, website creation, etc) is now so easy
that any technically untrained person can still intuitively use these new tools in their

4. Criticisms and who made them (Source)

a. Because there is no set curriculum or content to teach in OCoP, learning is accidental,

unplanned, and indirect.

b. The OCoP is totally against the Behaviorist approach. Behaviorists believe that
systematic and step-by-step instructions are essential for learners to perform an assigned
task, whereas, in an OCoP approach, there are no set instructions or directions to perform
a task.

c. The OCoP approach has no proper feedback process where the learner receives guidance
from a teacher. While other approaches like Behaviorist and Cognitivist approach,
believe that frequent and thorough feedback is very important for learners because it can
reduce errors.

d. In comparison with Behaviorism, the OCoP has no assessment or evaluation process
because this is a very informal learning environment or setting. The Behaviorists believe
that the environmental factors (stimuli) affect the observable behavior (response).
According to Behaviorists, the learning occurs from the consequences of behavior. If
there is no proper assessment or evaluation of a learning process, the learning process
will not take place correctly.

5. Major Contributors/their contributions/years of major contributions

a. 5,000 BC the development of communication and collaboration among humans who were
then able to collaborate on survival, defense, child rearing, and community building. This
eventually developed into guilds and apprenticeships that indoctrinated novice learners to
the culture and practices of the trade. Apprenticeships and informal learning strategies are
the precursors to many different brands of collaborativist practices including
Communities of Practice, and subsequently Online Communities of Practice (OCoP).

b. 1950’s Internet development, including Bitnet in 1981.

c. 1972, Murray Turoff developed an early web conferencing tool used online.

d. Dr. Linda Harasim and Dr. Dorothy Smith, 1986, first online course for credit through the
University of Toronto “Women and Computers in Education”.

e. 2008, the first massive open online course (MOOC) was conducted by George Siemens,
University of Manitoba “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”

6. Collective Team Position on Situations of Application

The team, as an OCoP,

a. Communicates collaboratively to exchange ideas and attain the knowledge that each
member requires to enhance learning and to complete projects.

b. Exhibits viability through activities shared by members.

c. Facilitates communication through members exchanging roles (elaborator, discoverer,


d. Provides the team with a collaborative learning environment through activities such as
information gathering, idea organization, intellectual convergence, and possible

e. Shares several core commonalities but not necessarily workplace.

f. Shares complementary knowledge that can enrich another member’s professional


g. Reflects a level of credibility through degrees of participation by the members of the


h. The OCoP attributes to:

 Learning.

 Building knowledge.

 Solving problems.

 Generating new schools of thought and practices where most of the members
knew little of one another directly (Brown & Duguid, 2000, p.190).

i. In this way the team’s version of OCoP is centered around discovering new ways to
function as a OCoP and apply the OCoP framework to new situations.

7. Attached 5P Analysis Rubric.

Mapping Cognitive Science Against Learning Theories

The rubric below is an attempt at evaluation of something as complex as a learning theory. If we
believe that the activities listed below are what the cognitive scientists are saying is valid, then
we as teachers and designers and theorists should be informed by those findings. This draft is
worked from the brain-based motivation considerations and from Gredler, Schumann and the
material on how the neurons and glia operate. Please comment and add or modify as you see fit.
In Gredler’s book, the sections on Principles of Learning and Educational Applications should be
reviewed using this rubric.

Y = Yes
Element of Motivation N= No Comments
N/A = Not
? = Cannot
The theory considers whether material Y In collaborative theory the OCoP
is relevant to needs and goals of the members have a common interest,
learner. apprenticeship.

The theory includes consideration as to Y OCoP members share some

whether material and/or commonalities as far as interest in a
presentation/stimulus is novel, is topic or problem.
something new and interesting to the
The theory concerns itself with the Y Members join the OCoP voluntarily
presentation approach being and their participation reflect their
intrinsically interest in building knowledge
pleasant/interesting/stimulating/ within a community setting.
thought provoking.

The theory informs with respect to Y Knowledge has advanced as

areas such as wording, visuals, audio, communication technologies have
language being manageable and improved.
useable to the receiving group or

The theory supports opportunities Y In the OCoP approach, members
being provided to develop proficiency share or develop several core
in application of the skill, knowledge, commonalities. Members typically
ability or concept share: a common language or set of
problems; common training or
experience; a common way of
working or doing things.

The theory supports practice activities, N/A This theory is all about practicing
to include repetition and spiraling, through the community. Repetition,
designed to develop automaticity in spiraling and automaticity are not
responses and execution if appropriate relevant in this case.

The theory requires that practice is Y Members of the OCoP, join the
relevant to needs and goals of the community for certain goals
learner (apprenticeship or knowledge
acquisition), and members won’t
join unless the OCoP is relevant to
their needs. Similarly the OCoP will
not retain members who are not
committed to the goals of the

The theory covers self-assessment or N In an OCoP approach there is no

assessment by other means that proper assessment or evaluation
evidences that the Learner can see that process.
skill/competency acquisition is taking

The theory requires practice activities N In an OCoP approach, learning is

that are within or slightly above the taking place in an informal setting
learner’s competency level or environment, so there are no set
activities or tasks to perform.

The theory requires that practice be Y Practice could be part of this theory,
designed to lead to correct response. but not all applications of this
theory will necessarily include

Production and Posting

The theory encourages application of Y OCoP is entirely about application,
the skill, knowledge/ability or concept through sharing of practices and
being learned. knowledge by the OCoP members.

The theory encourages publication of Y The OCoP approach encourages the

whatever is produced by the learner to learners to share their work and
group for peer view and learning ideas with each other.

Theory supports synchronous or Y OCoP launched as a group that
asynchronous review of posted share commonalities. Meetings can
products be face to face or online and can be
both synchronous and/or

Theory promotes a Community of Y The collaborative learning theory

Practice/Wisdom/Knowledge promotes online CoP.

Theory supports some form of Y The members of the OCoP

accountability with respect to who is communicate with each other where
contributing and how they are members know little about each
contributing to knowledge sharing other.

Theory accounts for variation in task Y The OCoP is a voluntary

readiness and ability to contribute to collaboration between members, to
group effort to meet goals share knowledge and experience.

In terms of theory, does the theory Y The theory is built on collaboration

provide for collaboration? within the OCoP.