Wenger is typically credited with the development of the metaphor of communities of practice where “learning requires an atmosphere of openness and the key is to build an atmosphere of collective inquiry” (Wenger, 1998). However, the focus of creating a sense of belonging as well as the formulation of knowledge as a social process is not as new. Rather, it can be found in the form of a learning community. Senge (1990) introduced this concept of the learning organization to explain strategies to enhance the capacity of members to consistently collaborate on mutual goals.
Communities of Practice (CoP) are groups “of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an on-going basis” (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002, p. 4). Generally, such communities seem to be an innovative way to share and manage knowledge and sustain innovation (Wenger et al., 2002).
Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoP), without excluding face-to-face meetings, rely primarily on information and communication technologies (ICT) to connect their members. A VCoP may use a large array of traditional media (phone teleconference, fax, etc.) and more or less sophisticated technological tools, such as e-mail, videoconference, newsgroups, online meeting space, or a Website Intranet to establish a common virtual collaborative space (Demiris, 2006; Dube et al., 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Explicit Knowledge (or codified knowledge): A transmittable in formal systematic language expressed in symbols, words, or numbers ( Rynes & Bartunek, 2001 ). This is the type of knowledge or information that we can easily document and obtain from books and journals.
Tacit Knowledge: Personal, context-specific knowledge, rooted in action and experience that is difficult to formalize and communicate ( Rynes & Bartunek, 2001 ). It is knowledge that is shared via stories, anecdotes, metaphors, personal reflections, and communication ( Sandars & Heller, 2006 ).
Communities of Practice (CoP): Groups “of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” ( Wenger et al., 2002 , p. 4).
Asynchronous Discussion Forums (or Bulletin Board): Web-based conversations that allow users to post, view, and reply to messages (Kevin, 2006 AU16: The in-text citation "Kevin, 2006" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). The benefit of such a tool is that the information posted by the CoP is archived for later viewing and in most systems is key-word searchable ( Nagy et al., 2006 ).
“Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoP): Rely primarily on ICT to connect members of a CoP and may use a large array of traditional media (phone teleconference, fax, etc.) and more or less sophisticated technological tools to establish a common virtual collaborative space ( Demiris, 2006 ; Dube et al., 2006 ).
Active Participant: An actively engaged in a virtual community. Such participants display interactive behavior which includes collaborative or positive interactive behavior or even hostile behavior ( Demiris, 2006 ).
Lurkers: Members of the community who do not contribute regularly ( Endslay et al., 2005 ). Lurkers limit their participation to passively observing, rather than actively participating in community discussions ( Demiris, 2006 ).