RDeL

Tomorrow, at the LearnNB forum, I will be quickly presenting (only 15 minutes allocated) a summary of the Research & Development in e-Learning (RDeL) project as well as an overview of professional development opportunities through CSTD. I have therefore posted the RDeL material here in advance and for future reference.

As a follow-up to the discussions and collaboration of the NB Learning Industry during the Winter of 2003/2004, I was engaged to coordinate the first formal Community of Practice. This ad hoc organisation, of industry organisations and individuals, grew into a larger group, including the creation of the LearnNB brand and website.

A record of the discussions of the original RDeL group is still available.

In October 2003 it was determined that this discussion board was no longer adequate for the community’s needs, as it was not secure and had limited functionality. Following an industry meeting in Saint John on 15 October 2003, I was given the mandate to develop a community of practice (CoP) to further the needs of the R&D community. As of April 2004, funding was made available by IRAP, and this Community of Practice initiative began.

The initial focus of this CoP was research and development, especially business models and commercialization. It was not intended to be a theoretical or academic community, but one that is looking at the development of practical applications ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú be they products, services, standards or models. Membership was and is open to anyone.

Here is an overview of the major events during the course of this project:

  • Establishment of an initial blog
  • Report on best practices in the establishment of a community of practice
  • Interview protocol and initial interviews in New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia
  • Evaluation of technology platforms for the web presence of the community
  • Discussions/conversations/interviews with interested members
  • Establishment of two web-based systems for discussions, one private and one public
  • Continuing discussions in person, via e-mail and through blogs with interested parties
  • Fine-tuning of technology platforms

The best practices report and case study are available on the LearnNB Collaborative space.

From the Case Study:

Conclusions

  • A sense of community cannot be forced;
  • Communities are self-defined;
  • Communities are conversations; and
  • Communities evolve over time.
  • Face-to-face contact can be the impetus for online conversations, while
  • Online contact can be the impetus for face-to-face meetings.
  • Communities of individuals appear to have stronger bonds than communities of companies;
  • Blogging helps to define dispersed communities; and
  • Password-protected web sites do not encourage conversation.

Recommendations

It is recommended that if there are future efforts in this area, then we should:

  • Keep the LearnNB online community spaces for special projects and events.
  • Advertise the LearnNB space for others to test out blogging.
  • Encourage more community members to use blogs as a community building tool.

Finally, any efforts to foster community should be addressed at the grass roots level. Centralized command and control does not work well in this internetworked world. Regional initiatives (e.g. Atlantica), or very local initiatives (e.g. Charlottetown) seem to stand the greatest chance of success. Provincial boundaries are blurry, and not part of many people’s sense of reality.

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