Community! Not often the first word that comes to mind when thinking of online learning, but it is for a group of like-minded instructors at the University of Waterloo. The inaugural meeting of the Online Instructors Community of Practice took place during the last week of April.
Sometimes online classes can have the reputation of being solitary for both teachers and learners. Although at the Centre for Extended Learning we work with instructors to dispel that myth for learners, we hadn’t fully considered the impact that online teaching has on instructors. One of our instructors was looking for advanced workshops and a way to share her experiences, and the Online Instructor Community of Practice was born.
Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002) define a Community of Practice as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an on-going basis.”
Over lunch, hosted by the Centre for Extended Learning (CEL), nineteen instructors, who teach online at the University of Waterloo, discussed the successes and challenges of teaching online. Topics on student engagement, teaching presence, academic integrity, and blended learning all emerged. Community members were overheard talking about how nice it was just to talk to others who had the same challenges and successes as they experience.
CEL is actively looking at ways to enhance the community, and have opted to offer a meeting once per term. Suggestions for the meeting include, a show and tell, select topics and a discussion of dilemmas. A newly created listserv gives instructors the opportunity to share suggestions and ask questions of the community.
If you currently teach online and want to join the Community of Practice, contact the Centre of Extended Learning.
If you are interested in establishing a Community of Practice for your discipline or interest, check out the following resources:
Image by Niall Kennedy, Creative Commons License.