Reimagining Dissertation Support within Online Communities of Practice
Pp. 216-232 (17)
The outset of this chapter acknowledges the intrinsic tension in using an
online community to support dissertation writing. Whilst it is envisaged that each
individual student will have an individual supervisor/tutor, a carefully constructed and
managed online learning environment can incorporate both individual and collaborative
learning elements. Communities of practice (CoP) theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991;
Wenger, 1998) and Wenger’s most recent work on digital habitats (Wenger, White &
Smith, 2009) are combined to achieve an innovative reimagining of how, where and
when learning takes place. This chapter proposes that some of the learning around the
dissertation process might be supported within an online CoP in which undergraduates
can learn from sharing each other’s practice (research, resources, writing), a form of
social constructivism. Such a course would be predicated on tutors providing students
with an explanation of both the expected approach to learning and eliciting explicit
student ‘buy in’ to the synergistic collaborative learning approach which is at the core
of such learning. The digital habitat consists of:
The Tools Landscape which is focused on how the course tools (blogs, wikis,
discussion fora) support the rhythms and interactions of members of the course
community of practice.
The Course Landscape which is constructed from the perspective of the course tutor,
and is designed to assist the tutor in the practical business of course design. It is based
on the roles of students and tutors in relation to each course component and the extent to
which components are unique to one cohort or shared across cohorts.
Blogs, collaboration, community of practice, digital habitat,
discussion fora, dissertation, rhythms, online, social constructivism, wikis.
School of Education, University of Ulster, UK.