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Helferich/Pleil: Communities of Practice and Higher Education


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We present didactical considerations to prepare students for livelong learning and to connecct them during university studies with communiites of practice. A first qualitiative evaluation among alumni show the long term effect of the concept on carreer.

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Helferich/Pleil: Communities of Practice and Higher Education

  1. 1. Communities of Practice and Higher Education Social Media 2015, 10-12 April 2015 / HongKong Pia Sue Helferich & Thomas Pleil
  2. 2. About ▪  Pia Sue Helferich ▪  Consultant E-Business-Lotse Darmstadt-Dieburg (Competence Center for Social Media & E- Learning) ▪  PhD Candidate ▪  @pshelferich, ▪  Prof. Dr. Thomas Pleil ▪  Director Institute for Communication & Media ▪  Head of study program Online Communication (B.Sc.) ▪  @tp_da,, Helferich / Pleil 2015
  3. 3. Agenda Introduction Higher Education and Lifelong Learning Communities of Practice in Higher Education Case Study: Connecting Students with External Communities of Practice Conclusion Helferich / Pleil 2015
  4. 4. Introduction ▪  Universities: education as self- contained phases ▪  Further qualification: responsibility of the employer and the employees ▪  Employees’ challenge: continuous development of qualifications (Gornik & Tomaschek, 2011) è Universities have to prepare for informal and lifelong learning Example Type Formal Education School / University Informal Learning Communities of Practice Reading Formal Learning Courses / Trainings Life- long Lear ning Global Knowledge society Helferich / Pleil 2015
  5. 5. Lifelong Learning ▪  The ongoing (re)qualification of practitioners: lifelong learning ▪  Lifelong learning: “purposeful learning, occurring among adults on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving skills or acquiring knowledge or competencies” (Head, Van Hoeck, & Garson, 2015) ▪  Lifelong learning can occur in the workplace, personal or civic life (Head et al., 2015) Helferich / Pleil 2015 ▪  Permanent changes and new requirements in the job demand to keep up-to-date (Arnold & Rohs, 2014) ▪  Changing jobs during career requires broadening expertise ▪  Ongoing education and training of employees as a key competitive factor for companies (Jongbloed, 2002, p. 416)
  6. 6. Relevance of Lifelong learning ▪  Students have to get prepared for fast changing environments & knowledge (Jongbloed, 2002) ▪  Universities should convey skills and methods to handle this (Jongbloed, 2002) è Students have to shape individual learning environments ▪  Higher Education has to respond to these changes and to the continuous need for lifelong learning (Jongbloed, 2002). Helferich / Pleil 2015
  7. 7. Communities of Practice & Higher Education (1) ▪  Communities of Practice (CoPs) (Wenger, 1998) as an answer to the need for lifelong learning ▪  CoPs can be defined as “groups of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise” (Wenger, 2000, p. 139). ▪  Educational scholars have transferred the concept of CoPs to Higher Education for example for architecture classes (Morton, 2012). Huge body of research dealing with Higher Education and CoPs (Lea, 2005), è Focus: The class or the students themselves form the CoPs. Helferich / Pleil 2015
  8. 8. Communities of Practice & Higher Education (2) ▪  Our Approach: students should also be trained to connect with existing external CoPs within their future profession in order to be prepared for lifelong learning challenges in their future jobs. è Learning as a networked process (Siemens, 2005) Helferich / Pleil 2015 Educators ‘ Weblog Textdepot Course Blog PR- Fundsachen Social Bookmarks (Group Archive) Public Wiki PR-Wiki Private Wikis PR-Blog PR-Blog PR-Blog PR-Blog PR-Blog PR-Blog (other students ) Others‘ Bookmarks PR-Blog (other students ) I M Educato rs‘ Twitter
  9. 9. Communities of Practice in economy (1) ▪  CoPs in companies: most studies focus on internal CoPs è Not adequate to all professions ▪  Social media give the opportunity to enrich networking and communication (Koch & Richter, 2008), not only within large organisations but also for smaller organisations and freelancers with professionals in their field Helferich / Pleil 2015 ▪  Examples are expert blogs, XING, LinkedIN or Facebook Groups
  10. 10. Communities of Practice in economy (2) ▪  The use of social media leads to a differentiation of CoPs è CoP in times of social media may be cross border of organizations, are more self-organized and fluid than traditional CoP è Connecting with such CoPs needs special training with web literacy as a basis Helferich / Pleil 2015 Picture: Flickr @Doug Belshaw
  11. 11. Case Study: Hochschule Darmstadt ▪  Programme: Online Journalism, optional focus on Online PR ▪  Challenge: Fields change quickly ▪  Avoid to degree students with yesterday’s knowledge è Scientific foundation, project based learning è Topic centred usage of social media as a means to participate in CoP è CoP on campus Helferich / Pleil 2015
  12. 12. Case Study: Hochschule Darmstadt Activities (starting 2005) ▪  ( A wiki on PR) ▪, a group blog on the future field of occupation (+ FB, Twitter) ▪  Presentations: 5 minutes on a current self-selected topic ▪  Workshops and barcamps: Students’ presentations & live communication ▪  Do-Camps: working together with professionals on a nonprofit project Helferich / Pleil 2015
  13. 13. Case Study: Hochschule Darmstadt The students shall learn to ▪  identify experts in their future occupational field ▪  connect with them (following, reading, sharing, publishing, discussing, working together) ▪  identify relevant online places, events & networks with relevant discussions ▪  set up an personal learning environment ▪  identify current topics of their industry ▪  present themselves online (personal branding) Helferich / Pleil 2015
  14. 14. Research Questions 1.  Which networks do graduates use for lifelong learning? 2.  Which effects has the connection with external CoPs during the study programme for lifelong learning? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Helferich / Pleil 2015
  15. 15. Research Methodology ▪  Qualitative interviews with former public relations students ▪  We coded and analysed the interviews with the software package MaxQDA and focused on open as well as process coding (Saldaña, 2013) ▪  From about 170 former students we conducted eight interviews. ▪  Five work in communications agencies, two are founders of communication agencies ▪  One participant works part time in an agency and part time as a freelancer for other agencies ▪  We covered six cohorts from the graduation years 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007 & 2005. ▪  Participants were 24 to 35 years old and speak German as their native language ▪  Working area of all participants: online communication ▪  Fast changing conditions, high demand for lifelong learning Helferich / Pleil 2015
  16. 16. Findings We structure our results into two parts according to our leading questions: 1.  networks for lifelong learning and 2.  effects of the connection with CoP in the study programme Results Networks for lifelong learning Effects of the connection with CoP in the study programme Helferich / Pleil 2015
  17. 17. Networks for lifelong learning: Internal Networks Networks Internal Networks External Networks Networks of Former Fellow Students ▪  Six of eight participants build learning networks with their actual working colleagues ▪  All participants said, that they realised the importance of learning on the job on a regular basis ▪  Four former students: face-to-face meetings with presentations and discussions on current development ▪  Strategies learned during the study programme are still being used to stay up-to-date Helferich / Pleil 2015
  18. 18. Networks for LLL: External Networks 1.  Networks with other professionals ▪  Five participants are using social media extensively to stay in contact with professionals of their field (esp. Twitter, Facebook, XING) ▪  All participants: Social Media shape individual networks, no identification with a traditional CoP. ▪  Four participants: Being part of a web community in general, but no specific CoP ▪  Different approaches in connection with other professionals ▪  Online complements offline connections 2.  Knowledge transfer networks ▪  Four former students noted that they built up a network of online resources (blogs, export websites etc.) during their study programme, which they still use today ▪  Success factor: trust Networks Internal Networks External Networks Networks with other professionals Knowledge transfer networks Networks of Former Fellow Students Helferich / Pleil 2015
  19. 19. Effects Connecting Students with External CoPs ▪  Three former students noted they learned about the relevance of networks at university ▪  Five participants: the connection with external CoPs via social media and through events had clear effects ▪  Five former students: learned general strategies to participate in networks at all, like the reflection of media usage, being open-minded and to try things like new tools Effects New Job / Job Change Faster work routines Cooperations in Projekts Staying up-to- date Lifelong Learning Networks (external, internal) Strategies Helferich / Pleil 2015
  20. 20. Limitations & Conclusion ▪  Our case study is limited as it refers to a certain study programme and a certain profession, where the need to stay up-to-date might be higher than in other professions ▪  Nevertheless, we think the case study may support didactical considerations, e.g. on the use of social media in education and to help to develop further study programmes ▪  We found some confirmation connecting students with external CoP might improve career opportunities as well as it supports lifelong learning ▪  Our findings on two groups of external networks (relationships and resources) support the idea of network learning (Siemens, 2005) Future research: ▪  … on other professional fields ▪  … on conditions for acceptance of students within CoPs ▪  …. on the long-term social media usage and details about the learning process itself, ▪  … will have to be on a broader basis in terms of participants Helferich / Pleil 2015
  21. 21. References ▪  Arnold, R., & Rohs, M. (2014). Von der Lernform zur Lebensform. In K. W. Schönherr (Ed.), Lebenslanges Lernen. Wissen und Können als Wohlstandsfaktoren (pp. 21–28). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. ▪  Gornik, E., & Tomaschek, N. (2011). Prozesse für Lifelong Learning ermöglichen - eine Kernaufgabe der Universität der Zukunft. In N. Tomaschek (Ed.), The Life-long Learning University (pp. 7–14). Münster, Westf: Waxmann. ▪  Head, A., Van Hoeck, M., & Garson, D. (2015). Lifelong learning in the digital age: A content analysis of recent research on participation. First Monday, 20(2). ▪  Henderson, M. (2015). The (Mis)Use of Community of Practice: Delusion, Confusion, and Instrumentalism in Educational Technology Research. In S. Bulfin, N. F. Johnson, & C. Bigum (Eds.), Critical perspectives on technology and education (pp. 127–140). ▪  Jongbloed, B. (2002). Lifelong Learning: Implications for Institutions. Higher Education, 44(3/4), 413–431. doi: 10.1023/A:1019825803857 ▪  Koch, M., & Richter, A. (2008). Social-Networking-Dienste im Unternehmenskontext: Grundlagen und Herausforderungen. In A. Zerfass, M. Welker,, & J. Schmidt (Eds.), Kommunikation, Partizipation und Wirkungen im Social Web (Vol. 2 ; Vol. 3, pp. 352–369). Köln: Halem Verlag. ▪  Lea, M. R. (2005). Communities of practice in higher education: useful heuristic or educational model? In D. Barton & K. Tusting (Eds.), Learning in doing. Beyond communities of practice. Language, power, and social context (pp. 180–197). Cambridge, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press. ▪  Morton, J. (2012). Communities of practice in higher education: A challenge from the discipline of architecture. Linguistics and Education, 23(1), 100–111. doi:10.1016/ j.linged.2011.04.002 ▪  Saldaña, J. (2013). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (2nd ed). Los Angeles [i.e. Thousand Oaks, Calif]: SAGE Publications. ▪  Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, U.K, New York, N.Y: Cambridge University Press. Helferich / Pleil 2015
  22. 22. Thank You! Looking forward to the discussion Helferich / Pleil 2015
  23. 23. Roles for Educators (Siemens 2007) §  Educator as network administrator §  Helping students to construct networks §  Educator as master artist §  Enculturation into a practice è Very open spacy §  Educator as curator §  Expert with advanced knowledge §  Creating learning resources è Great in an ideal world. Problems: Motivation, proactivity §  Educator as concierge §  Directing learners to ressources §  Incorporating traditional lectures §  Permitting learners to explore on their own è Striking the balance
  24. 24. Lessons (Example) Learner Generated Content: Short presentations (topic chosen by students), discussion èArticles in a Wiki Educator Generated Content: Body of Knowledge: Lectures, Excercises Discussion: Hot topics within the Social Web ------------1,5to3hours-----------
  25. 25. Lessons (Example) Learner Generated Content: Short presentations (topic chosen by students), discussion èArticles in a Wiki Educator Generated Content: Body of Knowledge: Lectures, Excercises Discussion: Hot topics within the Social Web ------------1,5to3hours----------- Bringing the Social Web into the classroom Opening classroom to the Social Web Continuing Learning outside the classroom