Academic Digital Event

Creating a Community in Blended Learning using the Talents of All? #iblc10

Barbara Lee & David Moxon

Creating a Community of Practice in Blended Learning using the talents of all?

How far does your CoP exist?

  • Likelihood that Universities are at different stages with their community
  • Certain things evolve
  • May have a mix of lecturers that wish to see student uptake and those that wish to use as research
  • Is tech there for ‘student support’ or is a ‘Community of Inquiry’ being created? Different technologies depending on what the answer is…


In this conference interchanged ‘Community of Inquiry’ and ‘Community of Practice’.

CoP are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. (Wenger 2006) – do we have lots of small CoPs or what?

  • A shared domain of interest
  • A community that interacts with each other
  • A share repertoire of resources leading to shared practice.

What is a community? How big should it be? Should say that there are lots of small communities of practice that fade in/out of existence and it’s more important that we’re here and aware of the skills we have.

What is Blended Learning?

  • Use of appropriate tech
  • Informed by pedagogy
  • Enhancing student experience
  • MANY – however, see it only in relation to certain activities
    • Supporting the full time curriculum to provide a more flexible support to student learning
    • Building it into the curriculum with p/t students receiving a mix of online & f2f
    • Using new technologies to drive pedagogical change?


QUESTION 1: Is there a recognised definition in your university? If so what activity do staff associate it with?

Hertfordshire does – may depend upon faculties, Solent’s is above, most don’t – those that don’t tend to have good bottom-up stuff going on, but if there’s a recognition that there’s over-arching strategy (not imposed), but bringing together the best practice. WebPet (web presence in every topic) – Flinder Uni, S. Aus. Now trying to move beyond that – easy in some, not others! Discussion tool, link to library page, link to help & support button.

SLIDE ( – everyone needs to sign up to Level 1 (equal provision) – how get it embedded? Is it a brain thing or is it social? Level 3 – more Community of Inquiry – more transformative/learn together. Can be hard to get to level 3? Does it come back to knowing your students? Depends on your subject – e.g. Computer Science = not a very discursive study. Level 2, not too many variables. Is it more difficult to get to the higher levels of interactivity with larger numbers or early on in the course? Nature of students, nature of disciplines. Wikis = great for problem based learning/interaction.

QUESTION 2: Is there a common focus or sharing of practice around (all sites on VLE fully stocked, using tools to support students as an individual, fostering online community where students work together on tasks? People work independently using support from central services?

VERY different practices in the same institution dependent upon the discipline. To some people, it’s about “that’s what we do”. Get a sense of evangelizing (there are more progressive uses of the VLE & we should be nudged?) – some of this information is helpful, but it can be dangerous. MUST be about your students. Where are your problems (e.g. getting students to read more) – start to look for solutions… Talk about learning aims, rather than systems & uses.

Even e.g. blogs – can be used differently – can get people speaking to each other naturally, or can push specific answers. Get more interaction if leave more open (less fear of having to get the question ‘right’).

Level 5, not a reading list, but offer 2 core texts they might want to buy, go out to read other materials, but we don’t put it there fore them – they have to be active. Social comes in – as can draw on each other’s material if it’s in a Wiki.

Need acquisition & participation.

To reach 3 – have to DO SOEMTHING different!

Can you stop/start things? Is it really a constellation of practice? Is there a definite group?

Is it a false environment? Do we need a clear purpose/are people getting together?

QUESTION 3: Are there interest groups that work together? (individuals, starting to move towards group work; definite communities)

What are the incentives for people to be involved. “You want me to give more of my time that I have very little of anyway.”

Quite circular – those who were new – in the centre, supported by others, those with more experience moving away to form interest groups as a result. Whose responsibility is it to support the use of new users (Faculties, central, or…?) Is there a community that works as mentoring? Is that not socialisation rather than mentoring? Natural formation? Different levels of granularity – a lot of it is to do with personality.

Can you belong to a community without knowing that you belong to it? Do we over-intellectualise this?

Constellations? Networks? Connect new staff to networks… Induction – specifically re: linking to new people, rather than introduce them to the technologies. CoP relates to projects, whereas networks go off and do another project.

Healthy organisation – how to break down barriers between these networks.

QUESTION 5: How to healthy networks interact (see above)

QUESTION 6: Is it an issue for you to use the ‘community’ to encourage more research into the pedagogy of blended learning? (Encouraging uptake, are there those actively looking for projects in the university, looking for projects outside the university, working partnerships & e-Champions leading the way for others into publication)

Hertfordshire – encouraged to write up & make something permanent – mostly about capturing and sharing practice & not reinventing the wheel.

Winchester – looking to blog or wiki for good or bad practice – but people don’t want to say what’s gone “wrong” in public – the idea of “the publication” limits things.

Are we writing it up as research or are we essentially reporting practice?

JISC projects are – how to do (rather than how not to) projects.

What is the community there for? Networked/sharing practice – not necessarily a communal thing – can be both, but not necessarily! For most it’s an idea of INDIVIDUAL research – rather come up with idea and then might COLLABORATE on it, but it’s not the driver for doing research. Are there projects where the community decides the research…

Hertfordshire, a great community – so e.g. Peter Bullen may give a paper, but 80% of his slides may have come from other members of the team. Communities come & go – e.g. CABLE core team = close knit, but not necessarily the entire…

WHO ACTUALLY HOLDS THE RESOURCES? How are they shared, is the holder also part of the community of practice?


  • What has worked?
    • Lots of relationships with many individuals – not very efficient, but people like it, but now need to build a repository of resources. Short videos of people talking ad-hoc about their practice. (Takes about 15 mins to get a 3 min video) – not v. academic, but gets engagement (they may talk with couple of PPT slides). E-Library of people doing anything interesting.
    • CABLE, v. successful, but need about £60k per year. 4 depts £10k each, and £20k to arrange social events to bring people together. Works like a dream.
    • Emerging Technology User Group meet once a ¼, meet to share practice in what people have been doing – but tend to be preaching to the converted. Still supporting those who are trying to push things forward.
  • New ideas?
  • Pitfalls?
  • Targeted support (cognitive v social – where do you see the next course of action?)