Koch, M. & Fusco, J. (2008). Designing for Growth: Enabling Communities of Practice to Develop and Extend Their Work Online. In C. Kimble & P. Hildreth (Eds.) Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, Volume 2 (pp. 1-23). North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.
A teaching professional’s community of practice (CoP) can affect professional growth through informal collegial interactions. The desire to support professional growth though community has led scores of teacher education, induction, and professional development providers and educators to seek online virtual spaces to meet their CoP needs. This chapter provides examples of using a phased approach to help CoPs become virtual CoPs in Tapped In!, a Web-based virtual environment for professional development providers and educators, and CLTNet, an online network; CLTNet supports the United States National Science Foundation’s Centers for Learning and Teaching in graduate training, research, and practitioner development. As many organization leaders and users have noted, the greatest value to the organization and its CoP is the phased assistance that CoP community developers provide to CoP leaders and participants. This phased approach enables leaders to articulate their CoP vision, understand what is possible online, support and scaffold their initial online activities, and gradually remove the scaffolding as the organization’s capacity to use the online environment to sustain and scale its CoP’s activities grows. Through this phased approach, leaders gain an understanding not only of what is possible online, but also of what is possible in growing virtual CoPs.