Related Resources

Learning Environment Design Framework
Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map

Learning by Dr. Luis Hernandez-Garcia

Communities of Practice

In The Invisible Key To Success, the authors write:

If the term community of practice wasn't invented at the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL), that's where it's most often bandied about. — (note, IRL, in Palo Alto, was founded in 1987 as a spin-off of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. Its mission is to study how people learn.)

The fundamental finding in the work at IRL is that learning is often social — how ever romantic the image of the scholar bent over his desk in a pool of lamp light, learning often happens in groups. However, not every group learns. But the groups that do learn often form into communities of practice, which have a few things in common:

The main thrust in a Community of Practice is that most learning is social and that it occurs in groups. This is true, however, deeper learning occurs when we do something with the newly acquired subject matter. We learn in a number of ways, such as reading, observing, and hearing; however, it is not until we do something with it, that we really come to understand it to a greater depth. This deeper understanding can occur from a variety of methods, such as reflection, discussing it with others, experimenting with it, or applying it to a practical situation.

However, it is hard to get new insights when all you have are your own views, beliefs, attitudes, etc. That is where group learning pays the biggest dividends — through the collective and synergic power of groups.

This type of learning was often difficult or expensive as people had to get together in a common environment so they could meet face-to-face. But with the advent of social media tools, the common environment is now replaced by these tools, which are becoming quite inexpensive and readily available.

Common Learning EnvirormentSocial Learning

Communities of Practice and e-learning

One of the powers of elearning is that it allows a large number of people with the same interests to join together in discussions. Some of the largest elearning discussions occurring are through discussion lists, blogs, and other social networks. While most of them are not exact community of practices, many are becoming quite close to the concept.

The most important elearning will be developmental in nature because the combination of training, development, and education over a period of time has a synergic power that grows the individual far beyond any single subject she may learn.

Internet Styles of Learning

According to the four styles of web-based learning, communities of practice would fall under the third and fourth styles (Empowerment through Self-Directed, Web-Based Learning):