Cultivating Knowledge Sharing and Trust in Online Communities for Educators
Innovative uses of technology to support teacher learning are emerging through professional learning communities that leverage social networking technologies. The value of an online community for educators lies in the rich and open exchange of ideas, experiences, and resources where educators feel both respected and supported. Yet among the most difficult challenges faced by online communities is fostering and sustaining knowledge sharing and trust. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine in-depth successful online learning communities for K-12 educators to better understand ways in which knowledge sharing and trust are cultivated and supported. Cross-case findings indicate knowledge sharing and trust were cultivated and sustained through a clear purpose and common identity, multiple options and opportunities for social learning, the active involvement of an experienced and credible moderator, as well as modeling and enforcement of appropriate online behavior.
The research in this resource is excellent for adult educators to keep on hand. While the author chose K-12 educators as her sample, this study would be useful for creating new online communities in Adult Education for my state and in training workshops and conferences. Professional learning is professional learning. The author identifies key players in Social Learning Theory, Communities of Practice and Knowledge Sharing and then shares the key findings of her study, which end up being Best Practices for creating and sustaining Professional Learning Communities.
There are many courses, trainings, books, and articles that provide instruction to current or potential moderators/facilitators of online courses in credit or non-credit institutions. There are not many that address moderating discussions in professional groups, such as those sponsored on LINCS, where membership is totally voluntary among large groups of participants in a wide geographical area. This resource provides excellent guidance to be adapted to the interests and goals of members in simialr online CoPs.