I’ve been thinking a lot about Communities of Practice (CoP) lately. In large part that’s because folks I work with keep asking me what I know about creating and supporting online CoP. My initial answer has been, “Um… not much.” Followed by the voice in my head with, “Why are you asking me about that?” and “That’s not an e-learning or instructional design issue.”
But both on practical and philosophical foundations I now think I’ve been wrong.
While I may not have used the term community of practice in the specific way it is used by my current colleagues, it has been part of my work all along. Learning is social: Learning itself is an act of membership in a community in almost all cases. Adult learning is also practical: Learning becomes knowing, knowing becomes doing.
It turns out I do in fact know about these ideas.
When folks ask me about supporting an online CoP, they are really asking me about are better ways to share best practices, disseminate new ideas and tools, support learner-generated peer learning, etc. I get it now! What you are asking for is some kind of framework to engage practitioners (learners) to facilitate their own learning. Now, that IS an instructional design and e-learning issue after all. Indeed, a CoP can be seen as part of continuum:
In the end, we need to be more attentive to learning solutions and less to training and e-learning in isolation (despite what job titles may say). CoP are definitely part of a learning solution.
I’ve still much to learn about CoP practice (Cop CoP?!), and even more about the new learning cohort I’ve been asked to support. But, after a few weeks of confusion and angst, I am much more at ease with my ability to contribute the positive outcomes that I’m being called on to deliver.
So, questions about CoP? Bring them on and let’s figure them out together.