I think it is important to remember that OCL means Online Collaborative Learning because I feel how well the “C” or collaboration is implemented has a major impact on the success of institutional innovations. I was impressed to find out that the University of Phoenix was the first virtual university because I completed two online courses from it in 2004. At the time I was married and working full time. I liked the flexibility it offered for me to complete courses. The policy innovations at the University of Phoenix are that it “employs OCL pedagogy and asynchronous learning environments, emphasizes small class size (10– 12 students per class), significant investment in teacher support major emphasis on developing state-of-the-art educational resources, significant investment in student support services, standardized approach, and significant investment in teacher training” (Harasim, 2012). As sometimes happens, life got in the way of my finishing a degree there, but my experience there was very positive. I liked how the courses were set up and facilitated. It was not very different than how our courses are set up now. Both are centered around learning through collaboration.
Before reading about Communities of Practice (CoP), I was not familiar with them. According to Wenger-Trayner (2015), “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.” When I think about the meaning of Community of Practice, I think about the importance of collaborating to make it successful, because “When collaboration takes place within a community, the most evident reflection of its effectiveness is learning” (Kapucu, 2011).
Therefore, I think the most important lesson we can take from successful OCL institutional innovations and the community of practice is collaboration. People are naturally social beings (there obviously are exceptions…you know, the Unabomber, etc.) and I feel that is why collaboration is so engaging. Of course, leadership and design (curriculum) plays an important role, but the exchange of knowledge through collaboration is key.
Harasim, L. P. (2012). Learning Theory and Online Technologies. New York: Routledge.
Kapucu, N. (2011, October). Classrooms as Communities of Practice: Designing and Facilitating Learning in a Networked Environment. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration: http://www.naspaa.org/jpaemessenger/Article/VOL18-3/11_Kapucu.pdf
Wenger-Trayner, E. a. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice. Retrieved September 28, 2016, from wenger-trayner.com: http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/