Exploratory Research on Designing Online Communities of Practice for Educators to Create Value

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology’s Connected Educators project — a project run by American Institutes for Research (AIR) — has sought to understand how to capitalize on the promise of online communities of practice to support professional learning for educators. The Connected Educators project investigated two overarching questions in its research:

  • How do successful online communities of practice for educators create value for their members that may lead to improved outcomes for students?
  • For newly launched communities, what are the key challenges and decisions that leaders must negotiate in the crucial first year? How can what is learned from successful communities inform the process of helping a new community thrive?

To address these questions, researchers at AIR and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University (Friday Institute) did the following:

  • Conducted two multiple case studies, one examining how mature communities create value for their active participants and a second tracking the evolution of newly launched communities during their first year.
  • Incorporated design research into communities designed and managed by Connected Educators project partners.
  • Explored the application of learning analytics techniques in a mature community.

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