Day 2 - Building Open Community



The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • Benefits and challenges of a Community of Practice (CoP)
  • Common places and spaces to find and follow other open educators


The purpose of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • Benefits and challenges of a Community of Practice (CoP)
  • Common places and spaces to find and follow other open educators


Part of the design of this course is to encourage you to connect with other educators interested in learning more about open education. Here are some ways to increase your network, share, and learn with others as part of this course:

  • If you are a Twitter user and want to participate in course conversations there, we’re using the hashtag #MakingSense18 for the 15 days of the course
  • Post to the OpenLearn course daily discussion forum that is shared only by those registered in the course shell, it’s a more private option if you prefer
  • If you have a blog you can blog about the daily activities link to them in discussions
  • Share your LinkedIn or Facebook identities with others and be clear about the topics you’re interested in sharing and learning about
  • Share regional, discipline, and language interests as well

Having colleagues that you can learn with, and talk with is extremely valuable as part of a sensemaking process. People in open education networks tend to gather around common areas of interest, for example there are open education doctoral researchers in the group (Global OER Graduate Network), there are OER practitioner-researchers in the Open Education Group. There are over 700 educators in the Creative Commons Open Education Platform, CCOpenEdu, and many, many more examples.

data visualization showing node connections between a variety of open education community members some connections have more lines and bold lines to demonstrate a higher number of tweets and retweets

GO-GN NodeXL graphic by Aras Bozkurt was created April 22, 2018. With permission.

The image above is a visual depiction of the digital social connections, and the strength of those connections based on frequent Twitter data. The focus of the graphic is GO-GN network members, doctoral researchers as they gathered face-to-face during an open global pre-conference event. A common space for open educators to gather (for a variety of reasons) is Twitter. If you don’t have a Twitter account (and you may have good privacy reasons for this choice), but you’d like to know more about how to get started, please check the video in the Explore More section of this module.

Getting Started Building Community

One way to begin connecting with others is through the OpenLearn discussion forum for this course (if you’re participating in the live June 2018 version). You can begin to find common interests (by region, discipline, or teaching context). Are you a PreK-12 teacher or post-secondary educator? By sharing your story, your professional education interests, your personal interests as appropriate, and what you hope to learn more about, you may begin to establish connections with peers in this course and beyond.

It’s also completely okay (you don’t need anyone’s permission) to observe the course and the behaviours and communication of others in the course as part of your learning. This is sometimes called “lurking” in the online teaching and learning environment, but it’s not a very positive term. Observing (as many new-to-something learners do) is a valuable activity in the learning process.

Lave and Wenger’s (1991) Community of Practice (CoP)

A Community of Practice can be many things to many different people within and outside of it. Often practice communities are specific, local, and face-to-face. However, the affordances of digital communication have definitely shifted concepts of what makes a community and who can be involved. A classic description of the behaviours of communities of practice was provided by Lave and Wenger (1991), and Wenger (1998) in their books on the subject. The following are three components of a community of practice:


A domain of knowledge creates common ground, inspires members to participate, guides their learning and gives meaning to their actions.


The notion of a community creates the social fabric for that learning. A strong community fosters interactions and encourages a willingness to share ideas.


While the domain provides the general area of interest for the community, the practice is the specific focus around which the community develops, shares and maintains its core of knowledge (Wikipedia, Community of Practice, n.d.)

image of a megaphone to indicate important content

Wikipedia provides an effective introduction to Lave and Wenger’s Community of Practice model. Go exploring at the following link (approximately 10-15 minute read depending on your level of exploration):

photo of a group of approximately 30 people at a conference

the ROER4D team at #oeglobal Cape Town by Catherine Cronin is licensed CC BY SA

Communities of Practice:
  • A community of practice is often organically created, with as many objectives as members of that community.
  • Community membership is defined by the knowledge of the members. CoP membership changes and members may take on new roles within the community as interests and needs arise.
  • A community of practice can exist as long as the members believe they have something to contribute to it, or gain from it.
  • A CoP is a group of people who are active practitioners.
  • The purpose of a CoP is to provide a way for practitioners to share tips and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues, and provide support for each other.
  • Membership is dependent on expertise – one should have at least some recent experience performing in the role or subject area of the CoP (Wikipedia, Community of Practice, n.d.)

What we may have in common (those on the course team and taking this course) is that we are practitioners, in one or more ways – educators or supporters for education. We practice things (teaching, course design, librarianship, administration), typically with a focus on creating effective learning experiences for students. The new element for us as practitioners (and described in this course) is open educational practice (OEP). But is it really new? You may be noticing that you are already an open educator,and that you already engage in open practice – even without formal definitions of these activities.

Challenges with CoPs (especially digital ones)

Being part of a community of practice is a responsibility in terms of acting with respect for others at all times. Being in community implies that you are both contributing and benefitting from the dialogue and sharing of community strategies related to your practice. If you are a marginalized person in your local context and/or workplace, if you feel like your opinions and voice are not valued, joining a new community can feel very risky. Digital communication is much harder than face-to-face communication (with all the accompanying human elements of nonverbal communication – body language, facial expression, tone of voice, etc.). Misinterpretation is easy, and it’s far too easy to be combative or dismissive in digital spaces. If you are shy or more inclined to observe than participate you may feel like you are missing out on some elements of a CoP, it may feel risky to offer ideas or resources into the mix. Access to digital communities, especially technology and education oriented communities is privileged by easy access to the Internet and English as a first language.

It is up to open education community members to be aware, and do as much as possible to mediate power differences with respect to access, language, and marginalization of those that wish to participate. What have you experienced about these challenges? How do you feel you have been successful thus far with the “open community?” These questions will be part of the daily reflection for today’s module.

image of a megaphone to indicate important content

The following article A Meta-Analysis of Open Educational Communities of Practice and Sustainability in Higher Educational Policy provides good navigation in the front section for you to read specific sections, or read the whole article (approximately 15 minute read). There are many excellent definitions and multiple perspectives represented.

Blogging as Scholarly Practice and Open Reflection

Many members of the open education community are bloggers. There are a few excellent examples below, and reading and writing blogs is definitely worth exploring as you begin to make connections in open education networks. It is also a great practice to blog (or reflect and write) as you continue to make sense of the open concepts presented in this short course. Suggestions to get started with blogging include setting up a WordPress or Weebly site. There are a variety of good videos that provide support to get started.

Recommended Blogs for Exploration

Helen DeWaard’s Five Flames 4 Learning blog is a great space for PreK-12 teachers and teacher candidates to explore digital literacy, educational technology, and storytelling Helen.

Audrey Watters website including Hack Education and other spaces are an excellent source for critical thinking about education technology.

Alan Levine (Cogdog) currently has a blog called CogDogBlog, and has been exploring digital communication and communities of practice since the invention of the Internet. His generosity and experimental work in technology-empowered open pedagogy comes up a lot.

Martin Weller’s The EdTechie a wonderful example of long game thinking about open education and other issues. His current series about 25 years of ed tech is awesome.

Whose blog would you recommend to follow? Use some form of course communication to share your ideas.


Participating in any community has benefits and challenges. Exploration and experimentation with a new community is one way to approach future participation. See how it goes, confirm whether or not there is a reciprocal relationship in terms of sharing and contributing for you. An ideal community of open is local, and face-to-face with opportunities to meet regularly. Digital communities can be satisfying, and may in some ways feel safer with a new topic such as open education. There are many in PreK-12 and post-secondary organizations that do not understand open practice very well and that can seem unexpectedly dangerous. As a practitioner using open concepts, and a potential advocate, you may find resistance to concepts of open from colleagues and administrators. You will often find warm and welcoming support and advice in the digital spaces the course team is recommending, let us know how it’s going!

Day 2 Activity

There are many ways to begin to connect with open community, choose one of the following paths and see for yourself. If you’re already a blogger, connected member in some way for open community, support others, read through discussion forum and social media posts and encourage those that are newer to the practice of participation in this space.

Option A: If you’re new to the open community, create a discussion forum post (or Twitter or blog) about what you feel you have to contribute in terms of your practices, and what you hope to receive from the community. Include some advice, a link to a resource that you like, a story about your practice that you believe will have value for others with similar practice to yours.

Option B: If you’ve been involved in open community (locally or digitally) for a while, connect with those that are new and begin a conversation about what you have in common. Share a story about your experiences with others in the community, what you have contributed, what you have gained as part of the two-way street of community of practice.

As with all daily activities for this course, any delivery method that we can link, share, Tweet, and otherwise post and share including text, images, audio, video are welcomed. You also have the option of privately creating daily activities and sharing them with Jenni if you’re aiming for a badge but don’t want to post publicly.

Explore More

Explore and join the Creative Commons Open Education Platform, CCOpenEdu.

Learn more about the fantastic ROER4D research project, Research on Open Educational Resources for Development.

Sign up for a Twitter account. Getting started with Twitter by Anson Alexander, 15 minute video provides free basic blog hosting.

The course team’s highest recommendation for a supportive vendor (if you have around $50USD per year) is Reclaim Hosting with a WordPress instance.

Start a blog on Weebly (and watch the 20 minute video)


Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

MacKinnon, T., Pasfield-Neofitou, S.,  Manns, H., & Grant, S. (2016). A meta-analysis of open educational communities of practice and sustainability in higher educational policy., Alsic, 19(1)

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia (n.d.). Community of practice. Retrieved from


All content for Making Sense of Open Education Day 2 by Jenni Hayman is licensed with a CC BY 4.0 International license (unless otherwise indicated with citation and/or attribution).

Last modified: Thursday, 31 May 2018, 11:35 AM