Bennett, Elizabeth (2006) Building on ideas of Community of Practice using social software tools. In: ALT-C 2006, 4th-7th September 2006, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Unpublished)

This paper reports on how ideas of Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998) have informed the design of a blended learning master programme. Software dialogue tools delivered through a VLE (virtual learning environment) including synchronous chat, discussion forum are discussed. Chat tool was used successfully to allow students to get to know each other socially and helped to foster a sense of belonging. Whereas the discussion forum provided opportunity for knowledge building.

A number of design frameworks for online learning based on the theory of Communities of Practice are explored. The design framework C4P (Hoadley and Kilner 2005) was found to be particularly useful way to understand the students' experiences and to help drive the design of the learning activities. This framework proposes the notion that the greater that the elements of content, conversation, connections, information context and purpose are present in any community, the more likely and effective the knowledge generation and transfer will be. This notion is supported by the findings of this study which is informed by a phenomenographic approach (Marton 1981) and investigates the ways in which learners experienced the masters programme.

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