Communities of Practice Online (CoPo)

Communities of Practice Online (CoPo)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Welcome to the CIT Advanced Diploma Participants

Hi everyone, A very warm welcome to my blog. I set this blog up when I was researching Communities of Practice Online. Unfortunately I have been too busy to blog new entries over the past few years but having your own blog is a great way to store information. I would encourage you each to create your own blog.

Cheers Kerry :-)

Leading Effective Live Online Events by Jonathon Finkelstein

I recently participated in this fantatic certified course by Jonathon Finkelstein. Jonathon gave some great advice on using Virtual Classrooms including

- ask yourself the questions (really think about the whats in it for me factor)
•Why am I asking my group to Log in at 3.30 pm on a Tuesday?
•Why Live?

- Jonathon discussed the anology of a facilitator as being like a ring master
- he also showed some great uses of the tools of virtual classrooms including icebreakers eg. type in hello in a language other then english and the use of click and drag on the whiteboard.

- Jonathon also used the analogy that I used in 2004 for my COPO presentation of comparing a
Virtual classroom session like a dinner party. Last week I presented a session on Teaching and Learning in Virtual Classrooms to teachers from Illawarra TAFE and discussed this anology:

Dinner Party
1/ guests must must have a reason for coming to the dinner party
2/ as a host you would make sure guests were given the correct address and simple, easy to follow directions on how to find the house
3/ you would clean your house and make it look inviting ie. nice tablecloth, maybe candles, plump up the cushions etc. You would have a clear pathway from the front door to the lounge room and/or dining room.
4/ you would not just sit and look at each other but rather engage in topical conversation perhaps about the results of the last Olympics or common interests for example your children or work.
5/ you might play cards or games.

Virtual Classroom or Community of Practice Online or any virtual community
1/ participants must have a reason for accessing the site (WI4me)
2/ participants must know how to access the classroom and have the correct address and technology instructions (training)
3/ the classroom must be easy to follow and navigate and look appealing and inviting
4/ the facilitator needs to monitor the conversation in the chat, mic and whiteboard discussions and encourage lively dialogue and interest.
5/ participants could be encouraged to participate in activites eg. Icebreakers, click and drag etc.

Jonathon really is an expert in Virtual Classroom presenting. Thanks Jonathon.

Cheers Kerry :-)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Updates for this blog

Hi everyone,

I have had a VERY busy few years - too busy to post to this blog.

Wow - I have learnt so much about CoPos since my last post in 2006. I have been facilitating the E-Learning Networks Community Forum and have an amazing two years, dealing with many different issues including handling difficult posts and people, how to create interest etc. I will post up information about my time over the next few weeks - I will set up a Wiki as I keen to have input for all of you about different issues in CoPos.

I have also been using Virtual Classrooms and I am passionate about this being an integral part of online communities and courses in the future. I have looked at most different platforms and would like to hear feedback from others using platforms and also I will start a wiki on Tips on Using Virtual Classrooms.

I also completed an Online Faciliation course by the fantastic expert in CoPos Nancy White and will post my findings to this site also over the next few weeks.

Cheers Kerry :-)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Welcome to everyone from the E-learning Networks Community

Hi everyone,

A very warm welcome to you all from the E-learning Networks Community.

Warm Regards,
Kerry :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hi to everyone from 'A Taste of Online Learning'

Hi everyone,

While the majority of the information in this blog is focused on online networks/communities most of the strategies and hints can also be applied to online discussion forums.

Kerry Trabinger :)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Networking 2004 Online - Great Resource - Online Community Toolkit

Jan Hatton presented a very interesting presentation at the recent Networking 2004 'Sheep Breeders get online'.

Jan shared some great resources including an online community toolkit. This toolkit is a link page to many articles which are a correlation of research findings and papers from Nancy White from Full Circle. Some of the many articles you can find here include -

Virtual Communities: What and Why?
Types of Online Community
How Some Folks Have Tried to Describe Community
Dictionary of Online Interaction Terms (Updated August 2002)
Tom Coleman Poem - some thoughts on connecting with words
Virtual Communities: Thinking About Purpose
Community Builders' Purpose Checklist
Community Application Tool
Conference and Topic Structures
Community Member Roles and Types
Die Community, ihre Mitglieder und Strukturen - German version
Networks, Groups and Catalysts: The Sweet Spot for Forming Online Learning Communities

Networking 2004 - Mentoring Online Learning Communities by Judy Fawcett

Judy Fawcett from Torrens Valley Tafe presented three online learning communities
- Child Care Learning Community
- Youth Work Online Learning Community
- Aged Care/Lifestyle and Leisure Online Learning Community.
These online communities are very successful and Judy and the team from Torrens Valley Tafe is to be congratulated.

Judy passed on the following in regard to her experience in setting up these CoPo's

1/ If all participants are involved (big or small)in the ongoing development of the site then that is their reason for wanting to continue to access it - equal participation and ownership - the site must continue to change in response to the members of your Online CoP

2. Ease of Access comes through practice and participants get lots of practice if they are involved in its continuing development, seeing and doing - I'm not a big fan of logins - we have had to created guest logins to provide access for all but original members have authoring rights - this doesn't stop others suggesting content/changes - in fact it is welcomed.

3. We spent a lot of time getting our front pages right - bright, colourful, appealing and reflective of the Industries we serve. Feedback suggests they are easy to navigate.

4. As a facilitator in online discussions I like to take a back seat once things have started and let everyone 'go for it' - the lively dialogue I feel comes more from the participants and I like to share facilitation amongst the whole group 5.Online games are fun, make up your own - in fact FUN (and relevance)is a key if you want your CoP to continue.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Resources and Links

Here are some useful resources about CoPos

Web Links

Online Community Toolkit

Online Networks in VET Toolkit

Why Lurkers Lurk

Virual Communities of Practice as Learning Networks by Stephan Ullen, Donna Ure and Stephen Evans from the Brigham Young University

On the Road to Community by Marlene Manto

The following are rescources posted into the 'Cop it Sweet' online forum by Robyn Jay.

Seven Steps to Building Electronic Communitiesby Philippa Gamse and Terry Grunwald

Design Principles for Online Communitiesby Peter Kollock

How Online Social Networks Benefit OrganizationsBy Lisa Kimball and Howard Rheingold

Building Online Communities: Transforming Assumptions Into Success by Victoria Bernal

Preliminary Heuristics for the Design and Evaluation of Online Communities of Practice Systems By Mark Notess and Josh Plaskoff

Practice Guide: Techniques for Engaging with Membersby Tim Pickles

Nine Principles for Making Virtual Communities Work


Ettienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder (2002) Cultivating Communities of Practice. Harvard Business School Press.

Salmon, G (2002) e-Tivities: the Key to Active Online Learning, Sterling, VA, USA: Kogan Page

Salmon, G (2000) e-Moderating, Sterling, VA USA:Kogan Page

Pratt, K & Palloff, R.M (2003). The Virtual Student. A Profile and guide to Working with Online Learners. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Brook, T and Wall, S (2001) Tutoring Online, CIT Solutions. Canberra.


Networking and the National Training System by John Mitchell and Susan Young (Reframing the Future Project Core Ideas report 2002)

Effectively Structuring Communities of Practice in VET by John Mitchell March 2003 (Reframing the Future project report 2003).

Learning Communities for Social Change in Forums on the Web by Janet Burstall. Adult Learning Australia, July 2000.

Learning Around Town: Learning Communities in Australia by Liz Henderson, Rachel Castles, Majella McGrath and Tony Brown. Adult Learning Australia October 2000.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Resource sharing using a blog CoPo

Peter Enderby from Hunter Institute is investigating the creation of a network for collaboration and resource sharing for Tourism and Hotel Management teachers across Australia. I think it is an innovative idea as too often teachers are 'reinventing the wheel'.

Peter is looking at using a blog with an RSS feed as the means of communicating. I think the blog would need to have some kind of sorting tool to better enhance the retrieval of information. I cannot find one in Does anyone know if there is a way of filing information under topic headings rather than just archiving this information under monthly archiving? I would appreciate any feedback on this.

Peter, I think it is a great idea and I look forward to being involved in this network.


Digital Photography and Computers

While attending a course on Digital Photography, I discovered that for as little as $169 I can purchase Adobe Photoshop which is advanced photo editing software.

While I am excited about the fact that I can now remove redeye and 'crop' my photos to help centre my pictures (I am not the best photographer!) I am not sure I was ready to learn that by using the 'smudge' tool I am able to get rid of my wrinkles, and if I lassoo, cut and layer pictures I can completely change the background of a picture.

While I think these are marvellous tools I am not sure of how I feel ethically about this. Should we be able to alter these images to that extent. When I am participating in a CoPo should I upload the 'real' me or jazz myself up by 'smudging out' the wrinkles'. I could perhaps layer myself beside Tom Cruise and let other participants believe I am his current flame!!!! The same applies for personal memorabilia. - do we want our Grandchildren seeing us for what we really were like or what we wished we were like!

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Cop it Sweet - Flexible Learning Leader 2004 Special Interest Group

I have been participating in an online discussion forum with current Flexible Learning Leaders who have an interest in CoPo's aptly titled 'Cop it Sweet' and hosted by Robyn Jay.

The following are rescources Robyn posted to the online forum.

Seven Steps to Building Electronic Communitiesby Philippa Gamse and Terry Grunwald

Design Principles for Online Communitiesby Peter Kollock

How Online Social Networks Benefit OrganizationsBy Lisa Kimball and Howard Rheingold

Building Online Communities: Transforming Assumptions Into Success by Victoria Bernal

Preliminary Heuristics for the Design and Evaluation of Online Communities of Practice Systems By Mark Notess and Josh Plaskoff

Practice Guide: Techniques for Engaging with Membersby Tim Pickles

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Best Practices in E-Learning Online Conference (University of Calgary)

I enjoyed the format of this online conference. Delegates had the ability to 'sample' each of the presentations. Delegates also had access to all discussion forums.

I found the following presentation particularly useful to the topic of CoPos.

'Community Building and Octive' by Karen Riedel and Margaret Halliday from e-Learning (23 August 2004)

Karen and Margaret discussed online collaboration tools in a virtual environment (OCTIVE).
The following is a list they compiled of the different types of tools available today:

- two way radio
- instructional television (ITV)
- video conferencing (VC)
- email
- chat
- computer conferencing
- desktop videa-conferencing
- msn messaging
- microsoft office suite
- moos
- muds
- breeze live
- blog
Halliday and Riedel praised the use of blogs as a tool that is becoming more and more popular.
'Blogs are an excellent way to track emerging trends and Blogs also introduce students to many different reliable resources that they can use at their jobs or while attending courses'.
They also discussed the importance of choosing the appropriate tool for a discussion. They listed the following as questions to be considered as part of an implementation plan. This would also apply to anyone interested in setting up a CoP.
1. Access - How accessible is a particular technology for learners? How flexible is it for a particular group?
2. Cost - What is the cost structure of each technology? What is the unit cost per learner/participant?
3. Teaching and Learning - What kinds of learning are needed?
4. Interactivity and user friendliness - what kind of interaction does the technology enable. Is it easy to use?
5. Organizational issues - What are the organizational requirements and barriers to be removed? What changes in the organization need to be made?
6. Novelty - How new is this technology?
They also sress the importance of keeping it simple and user-friendly and that training must be a priority. 'Too often lack of training and the low level of familarity with the online collaborative tools amongst students and faculty casue high frustration level with the tools in the platform and this in turn translates into frustration with the proram as well.'

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Quotes from Marlene Manto - Flexible Learning Leader 2000

Torrens Valley Institute - Adelaide

Marlene has a great website on Communities of Practice titled 'On the Road to Community. The url is
In her website Marlene lists six important factors -
- indentity
- ownership
- need
- whole person
- sense of belonging
- value

During our meeting Marlene discussed the following -

- you cannot make a CoP. It has life of its own
- start as a network and it MIGHT turn into a CoP
- start small 6 - 12 people. If too many participants split into two groups
- true CoPs do NOT need a mentor, rather volunteers
- important to look at the positives that using the network would enable people to meet/network who otherwise would not have had the opportunity
- creating trust is important.
- people will make time for a CoP if they think it deserves priority
- most CoPs have a lifespan of approximately 2 years then they require revamping
- personal gain important, the participants must know whats in it for them
- good idea to include games to make it fun
- personalise the site include local icons, logos, pictures etc
- include personal stories
- host an online event
- make it a 'SAFE and COMFORTABLE' place

Marlene has an interesting anology for CoPo's of 'think of creating a CoPo as trying to encourage a romance'.
You may want to encourage a relationship between a work colleague and a neighbour. You may think they will be perfect for each other but you cannot make them fall in love.
You can 'create a situation where if is is likely to happen it will'. You can do this by inviting them over, having nice music playing, candles, good conversation etc.

Quotes from Mark Hunwicks - Flexible Learning Leader 2000

Mark Hunwicks - Regency Institute - Adelaide
- ensure a network site is easy to navigate
- add in RSS feeds to make it interesting and relevant
- be flexible
- think about sustainability, how to make participants return
- make sure it is relevant
- a CoPo (using a discussion forum) is a good idea for Industry Reference Groups
- create safety and trust by using logins (Jenny Hondow)

Examples of CoPo

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

GOSS (Global Online Student Support) ARRTS

Australian Remote Rural Training Systems - Adelaide

Russell Boreham from ARRTS demonstrated the GOSS system which ARRTS is using as a communication platform to be used in conjunction with their paper based modules.

GOSS is a communication hub that can be used by lecturers and students, students Australia wide and Lecturers Australia wide.

Acess is free to students using the ARRTS resource. Lecturers pay $40 for 6 months. This system has a great chat facility in which students/teachers can book a 'chat' appointment via an availablity diary.

For further information please email Russell Boreham at

Quotes from Janet McMillan - Flexible Learning Leader 2002

Douglas Mawson Institute - Adelaide (discussion on

- Web pages must be dynamic, reflective, user friendly and functional
- RSS feeds are a good idea for a CoP
- The use of log ins can be a deterent for recruiting new members
- It is important to provide the participants with training on the technology
- If possible have a face to face instruction session first
- Build the community - people first, then common interests then plan of action
- Participants must have a WI4me (whats in it for me). Examples are local news and events, job board
- Look at why the participants would want to go online - what advantages are their of accessing online compared to face to face
- The importance of adequate funding for a facilitator.
- The facilitator is critical for sucess. They must have passion/time and the ability to bring people along with them.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Quotes from Carole McCullough - FLL 2002

TAFE Frontiers - Melbourne

Carole has the task of overseeing 'The Source', a great CoP for practitioners in the VET sector in Victoria. The url is

Carole has listed the following as hints in developing a CoP
- creating a sense of ownership is imoprtant, use competitions, pictures, be specific
- trust is an important element so use log ins
- be careful of technological problems as you will lose participants
- target your audience - encourage a sense of belonging
- push the site initially - market, advertise, fortnightly email reminders, flyers, networks (use websites and email mailing lists)
- CoPs do have a life span. It is important to create a new model to reengage those who have left
- the site must be constantly involving
- training and ongoing support is important to the success of the CoP
- in the beginning 'The Source' focused on the website, now they are focusing on the forums
- role of the facilitator is critical. Make sure their role is clearly defined.
- a facilitator must 'weed out and prune' discussions.
- constant evaluation is critical in the success of a CoP. Can use statistics on how many postings, how many participants, how many topics and how many have accessed but not made postings.
It is important to evaluate the lurkers.

Carole lists the following as important techniques in setting up a discussion forum
1/ The heading must be relevant and eye catching
2/ Make the topic name specific
3/ The thread name needs to be creative and engaging
4/ The facilitator should make their postings eye catching - use bold, italic, smiley icons, colours etc

Quotes from Leone Wheeler (FLL 2000) and Katrina Beard

RMIT University - Melbourne

Quotes from a discussion with Leone and Katrina
- information must be useful, new and current, important to update regularly
- it is important to have a good facilitator particularly one with the ability to stop 'flaming'
- it is very time consuming for the facilitator particularly in the early stages
- limit the discussion forum to one major discussion then break out into smaller ones
- when promoting the network it is important to 'hook' them early on. One good idea is to send out a choclate frog after the participant has made their first posting
- have ongoing marketing strategies. Idea include special topics, newsletter available only online, invite an industry expert, include games.
- training must be a priority. This will take time and money. You must guide the participants closely in the begining. They must have a 'how to' including instructions on ettiquette, technology and how to get help. A help desk is ideal.
- the site must be targeted, exciting and WI4me
- example of CoPo to look at is PASCAL who are using newsletters, forums, blog and RSS feeds

On the topic of logins both Leone and Katrina had differing opionions.
- must have a password. Builds level of trust. Safety online is very important
- participants should have ease of access. Using logins can be a deterrant.

Katrina uses a very useful analogy of 'Inviting participants to join a CoP is like inviting friends over for dinner'.

1/ they must have a reason for coming over
2/you would make sure they had the correct address and knew how to find the house
3/you would clean up your house to make it look inviting ie. nice tablecloth, maybe candles, plump up the cushions. You would have an easy pathway from the front door to the loungeroom.
4/you would not just sit and look at each other but rather engage in topical conversation perhaps about the results of the last Olympics or common interests for example your children or work.

If we use the above analogy in a Community of Practice/Network Online then :
1/ participants must have a reason for accessing the site (Wi4me)
2/ participants must know how to access and have the correct address and technology
3/ the site must be easy to follow and navigate and look appealing and inviting
4/ the facilitator needs to monitor the conversation in the discussion forums and encourage lively dialogue.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The importantance of relevance for motivation - Learning by Playing: Games in your WebCT Course

This course was delivered online via WebCT as part of the University of Calgary e-Learning Conference. While the facilitators did a fantastic job with this course I did not complete the course. Why?

The course was an online course on how to set up games in a WebCT Online course using Quizmaster. I thought this would be very relevant our Faculty utilises WebCT and has access to the Quiz master software. However the facilitators, while trying to make the course as interesting as possible asked the participants to pretend we were part of a group that was trying to stop endangered animal species. We were required to break into groups and create a website based on our research on these animals. First of all while yes, I am concerned about how we as a human race are endangering some species, I do not have a week to research this topic. Secondly, we were asked to create a web page - many participants did not have those skills (the facilitators did give us a link to many tutorials on how to do this!), finally we were required to go in and research tigers, elephants etc.

While I thought it was a unique idea and 'fun' at the beginning I quickly realised that in one week I would not be able to finish researching this topic, let alone learn how to create a complete web page from scratch - oh yes I forgot to mention we were asked to break in groups and collaborate on the development of the webpage. WHEN, was I going to learn how to create games. This course was only allocated nominal hours of 8 hours over a 5 day period!!!!

So I did withdraw after the second day. The faciliators did direct me to their final notes which I was able to downloard. It was a fantastic booklet that they have produced which is a step by step instruction guide on how to develop and use many great games including 'Who wants to be a Millionaire'.

So while I realise the instructors were trying to make the course 'fun' I think it is vital teachers remember that students today are time poor so it is best to keep to the topic. I like their concept but I think it would have worked better if we as participants had to research 'Games in Online courses'.

So while I did not complete the course, I did learn what I had set out to ie. 'how to set up games in your WebCT course' and also more importantly this highlighted to me the importance of keeping courses relevant. This would also apply in any CoPs. Yes, while most feedback is telling me to make CoPs fun, any activity or information still must be relevant.

Does anyone else have any examples similar to this one?

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Building Online Interactivies with Hot Potatoes 6 (and the use of Blackboard)

This course was delivered online by Susan Bergstrom - University of Calgary.

The first learning curve for me was using 'blackboard'. I did find blackboard easy to navigate and use and the University gives very detailed 'how to' information including two movie tutorials on using the discussion board and adding attachments. There was also an online tutorial 'Orientation to Blackboard'. Once again this emphasized the importance of having very clear, easy to follow instructions to help put the new learner at ease. Susan did this very well. However, I must admit I still prefer WebCT!

Hot Potatoes is a VERY EASY to use free (for those working for publicly-funded non-profit-making educational institutions, who make their pages available on the web) download that makes it easy to create interactive crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises, multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, online puzzles and quizes.

The URL for Hot Potatoes home page is

There are 5 major sections in Hot Potatoes:
JCross - this tool helps you create interactive online crossword puzzles
JMatch - this tool makes it easy to create interactive matching questions
JCloze - this tool lets you create interactive gap-fill exercises
JMix - this tool helps you create interactive jumble-sentence exercises
JQuiz - this tool makes it easy for you to create interactive quizzes
Susan states that 'each of these interactivies are a fun way to enhance all kinds of learning, with hints and immediate feedback on hand at the click of a mouse'. I believe they are particularly useful as review exercises.

Using these interactivities is one way of creating FUN in a CoP. For example you could set up a crossword on specific industry terminology. I would also suggest giving participants who complete the interactivity correctly some kind of prize eg. chocoloate frog.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Art of Facilitating Online Discussions course

This course was delivered online by Colleen Kawalilak via the University of Calgary.

The course highlighted the importance the role a facilitator plays in the success of an online discussion (or CoP).
Colleen lists the following as important points to consider or use when when faciiitating online:
- navigation
- silence
- a space of welcome
- inclusion
- solicit
- formatative feedback
- individual-personal contact
- co-create community
- quotes, references and comments
- colourful, emotional language
- visual
- empower

The term 'safe online learning environment' was discussed at length. Colleen commented on the importance of 'the power of relationship'. It is up to the faciliator to create this. Hints on how to encourage this safe environment include :

- using warm words such as ending with 'warmest regards' and 'good morning wonderful people'
- using emotive icons eg. :)
- encourage learners to contact the facilatator one to one if they need help
- mediate early if there is any negative emotion
- using photos
- use personal antedotes
- make sure you as a faciliator respond in a timely manner ie don't leave the student hanging
- keep the groups small
- students feel more comfortable if the learning platform has spellcheck
- send out private email or private call every now and then to keep in touch
- send out weekly email as a review of previous week or information on the coming week
- ensure the technology and learning management tool is easy to use for example the discussion forums should have a 'compile' or 'collect' function
- make postings interesting by using colour
- start a seperate 'coffee club' area for students to communicate socially
- KISS Keep it simple sunshine!
- inform the students of correct netiquette
- provide tool links to time management, study, writing tips, tutorials

It is interesting to note that much of the above information I gathered not from the actual course material but rather the very interesting discussions which Carol facilitated in the discussion forums! Other students who participated in these discussions included
Georgio Agosst - ABB
Marguerite Wells - Cornel University
Sandra Larwill - Ontario University
John Toews - University of Calgary

Friday, August 13, 2004

Gilly Salmon seminar

The Gilly Salmon seminar held on the 12 August in Canberra had two topics -
Topic 1 - Creating Engaging Learning Experiences Online
Topic 2 - The Way Ahead - Whats in sight for e-Learning

While this seminar was predominantly about moderating classroom discussions the
same principles can be applied to moderating an online discussion in a CoPo.

Gilly discussed the following -

The importance of 'how to' at the beginning. This must also be considered when designing an onilne forom in a Copo, how can the participants log on, how can they post, how can they sort etc.

The use of e-tivities. Gilly uses these in all her online class discussions. I think they would work very well in the first posting of a Copo as an icebreaker initially and as a prompter later on.
Please refer to the URL below for further information on e-tivities.

Here are three quotes from Gilly -

'Its not about teaching its about creating fabulous experiences'

'no problems only opportunities'

'students prefer to do something rather than see something'

For more information you can access Gilly's webpages at

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Interesting findings not related to CoPo (Presentation tips)

During a 'Professional Presentation' course I attended held by AIM, Judy Ludy from the 'The Learning Catalyst' suggested the following strategies to help overcome 'communication apprehension'

- be organised
- practice
- breath deeply
- move (take a few steps)
- focus on relaxing (tell yourself 'I am relaxed)
- release tension (tighten and release one set of muscles at a time for eg.toes)
- visualize(prepare a mental picture of yourself successfully delivering the presentation)
- reward yourself after your have delivered a great presentation
I have found the 'visualize strategy' the most useful. Prior to this course I was visualing - but that the presentation was a disaster!!! So now I visualise it succeeding and I am much less nervous.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Setting up a website for a CoPo

After researching the theory behind communities of practice the next step in my project was to develop an online network for use by the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management teachers and by the Canberra Tourism Industry.

I believed the major obstacle to this project would be encouraging the staff to 'want' to become part of this community. I felt it was important to create a sense of 'ownership' very early on. To encourage this I set up a competition where all teachers were asked to email suggestions on what they would like to see included in this network - they would receive a minor prize for this. They were also asked to name the site - the winner would receive a major prize.

This did increase interest and awareness. The winning name was
'Canberra Tourism and Hotel Management Online Network'.

Suggestions for inclusion in the site were -
- Technology Advances for example Space Tourism
- Unusual Destination Information for example the new underwater hotel in Dubai
- Resources and Links area
- Industry Online Courses
- Job Vacancies for our students
- General Discussion forum
- CIT Teachers forum
- Casual Teachers forum

The next step was the actual development of the network site. Renee O'Brien from the CIT External Relations area (a very innovative graphic designer) worked with me to create an appealing webpage. With the main objective of the site being information exchange, online discussion forums were critical to the success of the site. However with issues such as firewalls and the main CIT webpage not wanting to host discussion boards the project had to be rethought. Eventually it was decided that the main site would be hosted in the main Institute web page with an external link to the discussion forums which would be hosted in Edna.

The next step was to create the look and feel of the site. Most feedback suggested the site should be 'touristy' with a 'holiday' feel. So a webpage was created with an island, palm tree, big colourful fish etc. However when displayed to our teachers the feedback was 'it was too Queenslandish!'. So back to the drawing board for Renee to design a 'Canberra holiday look!'.

Lessons I have learnt while developing this CoPo are:

- The importance of creating a sense of ownership for the expected participants in the CoPo. It must be seen as THEIR CoPo.
- Be flexible – if you hit a technological road block (such as firewalls), don’t try to ram it, rather sit back and think of alternative routes.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Toolkit - How to set up an online network

This is a very informative document written by Leone Wheeler from RMIT. It is quite large - 70 pages but a complete step by step guide to setting up an online Network in VET. It was written in 1997 but the information is still very relevant. If anyone has an updated version please post the information here.

The url is

I particularly like the step by step instructions and the checklists.

I have also found the section on page 29 - Recruiting Participants relevant to CoPos. Here Leone answers the question
'how do you contact these people and get them interested'. Some of her ideas include:
- personal contact and word of mouth
- hands-on demonstrations
- liason with key stakeholder organisations
- network contacts
- conferences
- publications
- mailings
- professional assocation and union newsletters

Leone also discusses the importance of building trust on page 33. Some examples include:
- creating a light and welcoming environment
- praise newcomers for leaving messages
- let user know how often to check the network messages
- encourage people to supply a photograph of themselves
- let participants know about the etiquette of joining your network

Leone also highlights the importance of training by stating 'for a few of our participants, getting connected proved to be a significant hurdle'. On page 39 Leone lists some training ideas.

On page 41 Leone stresses the importance of the use of a moderator/facilitator in the networks.
'The moderator combines the role of teacher, chairman, host facilitator and community organisor'.

Leone addresses the important question of 'How to make the network sustainable on page 46. Ideas include
- invite an expert guest to participate
- arrange for a network member to moderate discussions
- threading discussion according to appropriate headings
- introducing different software

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Qutoes from Elizabeth McPherson - Flexible Learning Leader 2000

Canberra Institute of Technology - Canberra.

Elizabeth has been involved in CoPos for many years and has extensive experience in developing and facilitating communities of practice.

Elizabeth asked me to consider the following before I began my journey to create an online communication hub for the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management.
' you must first first work out what it is you are creating. Is it a CoP, a network or a learning community'.

Elizabeth suggested I read the following books and articles. I have listed the information I found of interest below. From evaluating the following material I have decided that the online communication hub will begin as a network and hopefully grow into a CoPo.

Cultivating Communities of Practice by Ettienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder 2002.

Ettienne et el breaks down CoPs into the following three structural elements:
‘- domain of knowledge creates common ground and a sense of common knowledge in the community. The domain inspires members to contribute and participate, guides their learning and gives meaning to their actions. Knowing the boundaries and the leading edge of the domain enables members to decide exactly what is worth sharing, how to present their ideas, and which activities to pursue.
- a community creates the social fabric of learning. A strong community fosters interactions and relationshiops based on mutual respect and trust. It encourages a willingness to share ideas, expose ones ignorance, ask difficult questions and listen carefully.
- the practice is a set of frameworks, ideas, tools, information, styles, language, stories and documents that community members share'.
Whereas the domain denotes the topic the community focuses on, the practice is the specific knowledge the community develop, shares and maintains. Wenger says it is important to develop all three elements in parallel ‘ focusing too much on one while neglecting the others can be counterproductive.

Ettiene et el uses an interesting analogy that cultivating a CoP is like cultivating a garden.
'You can do much to encourage healthy plants: till the soil, ensure they have enough nutrients, supply water, secure the right amounts of sun exposure, and protect them from pests and weeds. Similarly, organisations can do a lot to create an environment in which a CoP can prosper: value the learning they do, making time and other resources available for their work, encouraging participation, and removing barriers'.

They also list seven principls of cultivating Communities of Practice as as follows:
1. Design for evolution
2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
3. Invite different levels of participation ie. management and entry level staff
4. Develop both private and public community spaces
5. Focus on value (whats in it for me)
6. Combine familiarity and excitement
7. Create a rythm for the community eg. regular meetings, regular emails

Networking and the National Training System by John Mitchell and Susan Young (Reframing the Future Project Core Ideas report 2002)

A set of criteria for analysing the health of a network could include-
- trust, what is the level of trust and mutuality?
- knowledge, how well is knowledge shared?
- access, how easy is it for members to access each other?
- engagement, how well are members listened to and assisted?
- safety, will members ignorance and needs be used against them?

Effectively Structuring Communities of Practice in VET by John Mitchell March 2003 (Reframing the Future project report 2003).

Key points raised in this report were
- community-building is needed in VET to meet common challenges such as the distances between members of the same industry or the diversity of community membership. Community building is not a luxury in VET: it is a necessity.
- many facilitators in VET use a wide reportior of community-building strategies to build relationships and to help members learn
- Advanced community building skills used by some VET facilitators include finding ways for members to communicate regularly and continuously in an atmostphere of trust, enabling collective inquiry about issues of important to the members.

The report also discussed the most important factor in a communitys success is the vitality of the leadership. Community coordinators (facilitators) perform a number of key functions:
- identifying important issues in their domain
- planning and facilitating community events
- informally linking community members
- forstering the development of community members
- managing the boundary between community and the formal organisation
- helping build the practice, including the knowledge base, lessons learned, best practices, tools and methods
- assessing the health of a community and evaluting its contributions to members and the organsiation

Thursday, May 20, 2004

'Lack of time'!!!

In my many discussions with Industry representatives the most common point raised is
'great idea but we just dont have time'. So while they think the idea of an online network has a great deal of potential there is a concern that it will not be utilised due to time constraints.

How can we overcome this sentiment. I think there is 'enough time' we just have to get Industry to make our Copo a priority in their time allocation. How can we do this? If anyone has any ideas please add your comments as I would really appreciate any feedback on this.

Ideas I have at this stage are -
- make it fun (Industry has to want to access the networkcome on) perhaps add in prizes and games?
- create a sense of ownership by having pictures of local industry in the site

Kerry Trabinger

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Findings from the 'Connecting Up Conference'

Here are my findings from the ‘Connecting Up Conference’ (Using Information and Communication Technology to Build Australian Communities), which ran from the 3– 4 May 2004 at the Hyatt Regency Adelaide. I found this conference incredibly valuable to my goal of creating a virtual community of Practice for ACT Tourism TAFE teachers and Industry Staff. I have listed below some useful resources/information I gleaned from the conference.

Hints in creating successful online communities (collated from many different sessions across the conference)
- Build a webpage first then ask for feedback or else you will never get agreement on what should be included/not included.
- Adjust the site as you receive feedback.
- Importance of ownership. Never have the philosophy of ‘build it and they will come’ as often they don’t!
- Have the community name the site, have input to what is included and use photos of the community members.
- Importance of training/how to. Community members must be comfortable with how to navigate the site.
- Navigation must be consistent on every page
- Must be current and relevant
- Don’t bury links
- Keep it simple. If it is too fancy it will take time to download and most consumers will not wait.
- Be specific ie. ‘click here’
- Think of the advantages of using a website over a manual document and create it for these purposes – interaction, search functions and hyperlinks. Don’t just add in static pages.
- The use of an active facilitator encourages participation
- Importance of WI4M (whats in it for me) or WCB (why come back) personal interest
- Dynamic change ie. automatic changes to time/date/weather. Have consumers assume you update the site daily!!
- Fun
- Local Information/relevance
- Gossip/photos/bitch pages
- Interactivity
- Free adds, events calender, local pictures, area for request for local speakers.

Useful webpages Case studies on community building for example ‘ Community Builders Nebraska Case Study’ There is also a link to ‘Case Study Guidelines’ This is a link to an area on community tools and how to start your own community in Edna Online. Useful freeware links with free web tools including button makers, sound effects and logo makers.

Useful publications
Flexibility through Online Learning’ (NCVER)A brief report including ‘Barriers to effective online learning and delivery from a learners perspective and from a teachers perspective’.

Broadboand – Teleworking. Case studies on teleworking for example a travel agency manager working from home. (NOIE September 2003)

Quote - ‘Increasing capacity to use ICT is the 3rd essential life skill for ALL Australians’ by key note speaker Wal Taylor (PhD) from the COIN Internet Academy, Faculty of Informatics and Communication, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton.

A full summary of the conference including an overview, list of speakers and program can be found at

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Flexible Learning Leader Project - Create a CoPo

The Flexible Learning Leaders project I will be researching during 2004 is:

'To investigate the use of an effective online communication tool as a means of encouraging information exchange between Education (TAFE) and Industry (Tourism and Hospitality) practitioners. An expected outcome of this project is the development of an online community of practice that TAFE and Industry practitioners can access and utilize to exchange timely information. '

I intend to investigate best practice online community of practices, what works, what doesn't and how to encourage staff and Industry to want to become part of this community. A major focus of this community will be the use of asynchronous discussion forums. I also intend to investigate techniques and strategies for effective use of these discussion boards by both staff members, industry personel and also the use of these forums in the classroom environment. I would welcome any comments/ideas/strategies/techniques that any of you can share with me.

For further information please click on the link below to view my profile page.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


Hi everyone,

Welcome to my Blog on Communities of Practice Online. This blog was developed thanks to the Flexible Learning Leaders Project 2004. I hope you find the information on CoPos useful.

Kerry Trabinger :)
(Australian Flexible Learning Leader 2004)
Flexible and e-Learning Training Manager
Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management
Canberra Insitute of Technology