Using Your LMS to Develop a Community of Practice in Education

Learn how your LMS can help create a community of practice
Contributed By

Lauren Davis

EdTech Editor, Former Department Chair and Instructional Coach

Using Your LMS to Develop a Community of Practice in Education

Posted in Evolving Ed | June 20, 2019

You want to collaborate with other educators about your thoughts, ideas, and concerns. You’re sure that you could be more effective, if only you knew what others were doing in their content area or level. When you begin to feel like the level at which your students are being serviced is subpar, it’s time to connect with common-minded peers who wonder about the things you do, are solution-oriented, and understand the need for flexibility. What you need is a Community of Practice.

What Is a Community of Practice (and Why You Need One)

According to Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, in the 2015 publication, Introduction To Communities of Practice, A Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a concern, or a passion for something they do, and learns how to do it better as they interact regularly. A CoP comes together in its own digital and physical space where everyone shares knowledge, struggles, solutions, and resources. By supporting the challenges and difficulties that you and your peers may be having, it fosters relationships built on trust, with everyone's success in mind.

In this safe environment, learning and the application of learning thrive. You move toward the topics you feel strongest about, with your sight on solutions. Members enjoy a place where you can assert your knowledge and gifts, and still change as the purpose of the CoP grows.

Four Steps to Building a Community of Practice in Education

In the collection of research published by Educause, Community of Practice Design Guide, a step-by-step process is suggested below for the successful execution of CoPs.

  1. The first step to building a CoP in education is bringing together a community of peers who share a common purpose. Creating an equal, safe, and thriving environment is essential for the community's success.
  2. The second step of the process is to learn from everyone's current knowledge and practices. After all information is absorbed, you apply the practice in your own realm and share your own experiences. Because members feel safe enough to expose themselves and the areas in which they need to grow, walls come down quickly.
  3. Once this information is collected from everyone in the group, you will consider, research, and apply your understanding, while data is collected and best practices are tweaked. The idea is that every possible resource born from the group works toward the solutions that the group desires.
  4. Once the group has exhausted its own knowledge and practice, it turns its appetite toward new knowledge and practices from outside sources. The CoPs reassesses its group dynamic and considers crossing boundaries to access knowledge from other CoPs. What is unique about this is the group conscience allows its curiosity to take over, rather than obsessing on what did not work.

Enhancing Communities of Practice with Your Learning Management System

How can CoPs find that perfect balance between face-to-face communication and still have a technology tool that will make it easier to work with one another online? Instead of more programs and apps, what you need is a platform that brings all of it together. All CoP members can benefit from the right tools in an easily accessible, user-friendly toolbox. A Learning Management System (LMS) is the ideal platform for the CoP.

Your One-Stop LMS Solution

Educause has a menu of technical capabilities you'll need to start a CoP. The platform supports and allows a CoP to do its most important work without having to worry about the possible limitations or snags. Your CoP will run like clockwork without you ever having to see the man behind the curtain.

Let Your LMS Work for You

Your LMS will support the creation and building of relationships in your community of practice. It makes the set-up and management of the group effortless, as well as making the use of the LMS friendly for all users. It enhances relationships within the group by providing structure for sharing information, a framework of communication, and the ability to pull all members into the same room when face-to-face is not possible, even if some members are on another continent.

Learning Happens in Different Forms to Support an Individual's Style of Learning

A Learning Management System indicates that learning is made to order for the different types and styles that different users require. Self-paced tutorials allow for a more accurate reading, as well as noting the most important content. Video lessons can be played back to clarify information without having to ask questions in a crowded class. Online discussions creates a comfortable place to share and solidify content.

An Effortless Format for Sharing, Annotating, Editing and Distribution

Effective collaboration and expression are cornerstones of a successful LMS. Instant messaging creates a quick and easy way to contact other members with the most simple or complex interaction. Creating common calendars that all users can access keeps the group running smoothly. Creating workspaces for subgroups keeps the water from getting muddy and makes it easier to report and add information to share with the group later.

Generating and Discovering New Knowledge

Part of the CoP process involves facilitating new learning and thought processes. Structured databases in the LMS speed up the research process, and idea banks provide fresh material to consider. Digital stories provided offer references when introducing or supporting new material.

What Happens Next?

A Community of Practice asks a lot of you, but if it's done well, it will be very beneficial. A strong LMS that supports your important work, will give students a more well-rounded teacher who is prepared to guide and assist them in reaching their goals.

Do you see the beenfit of using your LMS to develop a community of practice in education? Let us know on Twitter @Schoology

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