Design of an Online Community of Practice to Support an Emerging Doctoral Culture

Design of an Online Community of Practice to Support an Emerging Doctoral Culture

James M. Monaghan (California State University, San Bernardino, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-876-5.ch009
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Abstract

During the initial accreditation process for California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB)’s new doctorate in educational leadership, the accrediting body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), presented the institution with a serious concern. Reviewers of CSUSB’s proposal to offer their first doctorate indicated that the institution did not have a history of a doctoral culture. The challenge was how to acculturate students into a doctoral culture in the absence of an established doctoral culture? The university proposed to leverage their track record creating and nurturing departmental online communities of practice by creating and nurturing a similar community of practice for scholars in the doctoral program. This online community of practice was intended to provide scaffolding which was similar to that which occurs in full-time doctoral programs where faculty and students regularly interact in both formal and informal settings. In designing the online community of practice, the Office of Distributed Learning built upon the expertise developed in the successful implementation of similar communities of practice for numerous departments across the campus.
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Background

During the initial accreditation process for California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB)'s new doctorate in educational leadership, our accrediting body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), presented our institution with a serious concern. Reviewers of our proposal to offer our first doctorate indicated that the institution did not have a history of a doctoral culture. We were dismayed by this concern, as it was clear that the university did indeed have a doctoral culture among the graduate professors. However, WASC clarified that they were not concerned about the doctoral culture among the graduate professors, but rather, the absence of a doctoral culture among the prospective students. Thus, our institution was faced with a challenge. The challenge was how do we acculturate students into a doctoral culture in the absence of an established doctoral culture?

The Office of Distributed Learning at Cal State, San Bernardino, charged with support of online teaching and learning at the University, presented an idea for a solution to the problem. We proposed to leverage our track record creating and nurturing departmental online communities of practice by creating and nurturing a similar community of practice for scholars in the doctoral program. Initially, we needed a way to enculturate new students into the doctoral culture. Our colleagues at the central California State University Chancellor's office were excited about the prospect of an online community. This proposal was well received by our accrediting body as well.

Therefore, working in collaboration with the CSU Chancellor's office, we created an online community of practice to provide a social structure to support the emerging doctoral culture. This online community of practice was intended to provide scaffolding which was similar to that which occurs in full-time doctoral programs where faculty and students regularly interact in both formal and informal settings. In designing the online community of practice, the Office of Distributed Learning built upon the expertise developed in the successful implementation of similar communities of practice for numerous departments across the campus. We have constructed over twenty such environments for academic departments including online communities in the departments of sociology, world languages, teacher credentialing, elementary teaching, secondary teaching, and special education. We employed social constructivist perspective in the design of the communities. Some of the communities have been executed in the Moodle learning management system; others have been executed in the Blackboard learning management system. In this chapter, I discuss the design and deployment of the Blackboard-based doctoral online community of practice.

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