Successful online communities of practice for educators utilize networking technologies to increase communication, collaboration, and support among teachers, administrators, researchers, and other related professionals and stakeholders. These communities enable educators to gain equitable access to human and information resources that may not be available locally. This access helps to reduce feelings of disconnectedness or isolation that educators often experience. Situated in the context of educators’ everyday work, successful online communities facilitate informal knowledge sharing, the exchange of ideas and experiences in ways that contribute to continual professional learning, and the collaborative building of individual and group expertise. In addition to enabling members to share existing knowledge, successful online communities provide an environment for the collaborative creation of new knowledge.
A deep and full understanding of the attributes of successful communities can inform the work of practitioners who are creating and stewarding online communities for educators. Although the platform on which a community is built and the interface through which users interact are key dimensions of community design, it is important to think about community design in broader terms. The purpose of this paper is to highlight multiple dimensions of community design and offer guidelines for implementation. These dimensions include the following:
- Collective identity and clear purpose
- Leadership and effective moderation
- Opportunities for sharing knowledge, expertise, and experiences
- Governance structure and guidelines for participation
- Community sociability and usability
- Measuring success