Exploring Virtual Opportunities to Enhance and Promote an Emergent Community of Practice


  • Kathy Courtney


Communities of practice, learning objects, interprofessional learning objects, Interprofessional Practice, community development support, Reified Objects


This paper gives an account of an attempt by an educational developer to support and strengthen an emergent Community of Practice (CoP) (Wenger 1998a). This community consists of members of staff associated in different capacities with the Centre for Interprofessional e‑Learning (CIPeL), a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), based at Coventry University and Sheffield Hallam University. The support is specifically targeting CIPeL Secondees who are recruited to CIPeL on a part‑time basis, for the purpose of creating interprofessional Learning Objects (LOs). While Secondees receive individual support, there is little formal contact between Secondees. An online CIPeL Community site was created, in order to provide a space where CIPeL members could meet virtually and share problems and experiences relating to the construction of LOs. Initially, the key question appeared to be how online participation by members of the community could be encouraged. Using Wenger's (1998a) CoP theory of learning, and after exploring how the Community site was being used, the focus of attention shifts to an exploration of reified objects and the role they play in guiding practice, which in this case relates to the creation and use of interprofessional LOs. This in turns leads to the difficult question of how relevant reified objects may be identified and built, and it is advocated that existing CIPeL LOs should be exploited as reified objects for the purpose of guiding the construction of new LOs. It is felt that invoking constructs from Wenger's (1998a) CoP theory of learning has resulted in a more detailed picture of the nature of the challenges involved in moving from an emergent CoP to more established practice. The approach has simultaneously helped clarify how support for an emergent CoP might be more effectively focused. As a final point, it is suggested that it may be fruitful to explore parallels between CIPeL as an emergent CoP and interprofessional practice (IPP) itself, based on the view that IPP is also an emergent practice.



1 Dec 2007