Communities of Practice Online (CoPo)

Communities of Practice Online (CoPo)

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!

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