Virtual community of practice

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

To some a virtual community of practice is a misnomer as the original concept of a community of practice (CoP) was based around situated learning in a co-located setting. However, with increasing globalization and the continued growth of the Internet many now claim that virtual CoPs do exist (e.g. Dubé, Bourhis & Jacob, 2005; Murillo, 2006; Zarb, 2006; Hara & Hew, 2007; Murillo, 2008). For example, some [1] claim that a wiki (such as is a virtual CoP (Bryant, Forte & Bruckman, 2005).

There is also debate on the very term VCoP since the community is real though the form of communication is mostly, if not entirely, via CMC. Few believe that a community of practice may be formed without any face to face meetings whatsoever. In fact many leading CoP thinkers stress the importance of such meetings. However some researchers argue that a VCoP's high use of ICT, changes some of its characteristics and introduces new complexities and ambiguities, thus justifying the creation of the term and area of study (Kim, 2004; Zarb, 2006).

Some of the other terms used have been (in chronological order) on-line (Cothrel & Williams, 1999), computer-mediated (Etzioni & Etzioni, 1999), electronic (Wasko & Faraj, 2000) and distributed (Hildreth, Kimble & Wright, 1998[2]; Wenger et al., 2002; Kimble & Hildreth, 2005[3]). As the mode of communication can involve face-to-face, telephone and letter, and the defining feature is its distributed nature. For a comparison between Virtual Learning Communities (VLCs) with Distributed Communities of Practice (DCoP), see Couros & Kesten (2003).

Recent research has produced evidence that increases in the sharing of Tacit knowledge, which is very much inherent within CoP theory, may take place, albeit to a lesser degree, in a VCoP scenario even though such systems make use of written word (Zarb, 2006). This is spurring interest in what is sometimes referred to as Community-driven knowledge management or Community Based Knowledge Management, where CoP and VCoP theory is harnessed, nourished and supported within the broader organisational setting.


[edit] On-Line Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice like Sap’s SDN developer network, Adobe’s XMP forum, Sermo for physicians, or domain-specific corporate-internal communities such as those found at HP, revolve around people's professional or vocational needs for connections, information, identity, and sense of belonging. Communities of practice are about what people do for a living.

They address the needs that people have which can not easily be satisfied with traditional resources such as broadcast media, formal publications, academia, and ad-hoc associations or relationships. On-line communities of practice run the gamut from forums, faqs, to email list serves. Offline communities of practice include user groups such as ASUG and eBay’s annual “Live” event.

Communities of practice provide a critical resource to professionals who want and need recommendations, pointers, tips and tricks, best practices, insights and innovations. Part of what makes a community practice strong is the aggregation of relevance; that is, people and information related to a coherent set of topics which certain people will find interesting, useful, and potentially profitable. Communities of practice lift us up to support us, to help us achieve our aspirations, reach our goals, and to be of service.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. ^ The Adult Literacy Education Wiki as a Virtual Community of Practice E. Jacobson in C. Kimble and P. Hildreth (eds). Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators. Charlotte NC, Information Age Publishing (2008)
  2. ^ Computer Mediated Communications and Communities of Practice.Hildreth, Kimble & Wright, Proceedings of Ethicomp’98, (March 1998), Rotterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 275 - 286, (1998)
  3. ^ Dualities, Distributed Communities of Practice and Knowledge Management Kimble & Hildreth, Journal of Knowledge Management, 9(4), 102 - 113. (2005)

Bryant, S. L., Forte, A. & Bruckman, A. (2005). Becoming Wikipedian: transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopledia. In K. Schmidt, M. Pendergast, M. Ackerman, & G. Mark, (Eds.), Proceedings of GROUP International Conference on Supporting Group Work. (pp. 11-20). New York: ACM Press.

Cothrel, J., & Williams, R.L. (1999). On-line communities: helping them form and grow. Journal of Knowledge Management, 3(1), 54-60.

Dubé, L., Bourhis, A. & Jacob, R. (2005). The impact of structuring characteristics on the launching of virtual communities of practice. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 18(2): 145-166.

Etzioni, A., & Etzioni, O. (1999). Face-to-face and computer-mediated communities, A comparative analysis. The Information Society, 15, 241-248.

Hara, N. & Hew, K. H. (2007) Knowledge-sharing in an online community of health-care professionals. Information Technology & People, 20(3): 235-261.

Kim, A.J. (2004). “Emergent Purpose.” Musings of a Social Architect. January 24, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2006

Murillo, E. (2006) Searching for virtual communities of practice in the Usenet discussion network: combining quantitative and qualitative methods to identify the constructs of Wenger's theory. PhD thesis. University of Bradford. Available at

Murillo, E. (2008). Searching Usenet for virtual Communities of Practice: using mixed methods to identify the constructs of Wenger's theory. Information Research, 13(4) paper 386. [Available at]

Wasko, M.M., & Faraj, S. (2000). “It is what one does”: why people participate and help others in electronic communities of practice. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 9, 155-173.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W.M. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Zarb, M.P (2006). "Modelling Participation in Virtual Communities-of-Practice". LSE MSc ADMIS Dissertation: Distinction, Accessed from

Personal tools