Supporting the Interconnection of Communities of Practice: The Example of TE-Cap 2

Supporting the Interconnection of Communities of Practice: The Example of TE-Cap 2

Élise Lavoué, Sébastien George
DOI: 10.4018/jwltt.2010040103
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In this paper, a general model for the Interconnection of Communities of Practice (ICP) is proposed. This model creates links between local Communities of Practice (CoPs) and global Communities of Practice on the Web. To hit the target platform specifications to support an ICP are first of all proposed, soon after the TE-Cap 2 (Tutoring Experience Capitalisation) platform for an ICP of tutors is made up to support people working on it. This platform allows the capitalisation of tutors’ contextualised knowledge by making it easily retrievable from all the tutors in their daily practice. At last a descriptive investigation over a four-month period and forty-two users registered on the platform is conducted. Results presented in this paper concern the usability of the platform and the relevance of the model with regard to tutors’ needs.
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Literature Review

Many skills are required to be a tutor, generally classifiable into four categories: pedagogical, communicational, disciplinary expertise and technological (Thorpe, 2002; Denis et al., 2004; Banks et al., 2004). However, tutors are asked, ‘to run before they can walk’ (Bennett & Marsh, 2002) because most of them do not have these skills on which to lean, and there is no training which attempts to help tutors develop the required competence (McPherson & Nunes, 2004). Training methods remain specific to each campus (Denis, 2003; Class & Schneider, 2004) and therefore can be quite isolated and rather ad hoc. Furthermore, few tools have been developed to answer these particular training needs and those that exist do so in a very limited way. Indeed, there are currently few assistance systems for tutors (Dufresne et al., 2003) or only specific prototypes (Garrot et al., 2006). Research work based on data mining techniques predicts students’ results (Romero & Ventura, 2007) and locates relevant information for tutors. However, results rest on elementary rules of association which do not reflect the reality of educational practice and are applicable only to simple exercises. They do not help tutors who do not really know what they have to do and the best ways to go about it (Casey et al., 2005).

Tutors compensate for this lack of training and formal help by participating in Communities of Practice (CoPs) which emerge inside institutions and more generally on the Web. CoPs gather tutors together in an informal way (Lave & Wenger, 1991) because of the fact that they have common practices, interests and purposes (i.e. to share ideas and experiences, build common tools, and develop relations between peers) (Wenger, 1998; Koh & Kim, 2004). Members exchange information, help each other develop their skills and expertise and solve problems in an innovative way (Pan & Leidner, 2003; Snyder et al., 2004). They develop a community identity around shared knowledge, common approaches and established practices and create a shared directory of common resources.

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