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Using innovative social networking tools to foster communities of practice

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Authors: Yvonne Diggins, Ann Marcus-Quinn, C Bruen
The National Digital Learning Resources Service (NDLR), funded by the HEA, is an open educational resource service, providing an open online repository and community portal, shared between the seven Universities and the fourteen Institutes of Technology in Ireland. The NDLR uses innovative technologies and social networking tools to foster over thirty active communities of practice.

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Using innovative social networking tools to foster communities of practice

  1. 1. In-depth Using innovative social networking tools to foster communities of practiceAuthors The National Digital Learning Resources Service (NDLR), funded by the HEA, is an open educational resource service, providing an open online repository and community por-Yvonne Diggins tal, shared between the seven Universities and the fourteen Institutes of Technologyyvonne.diggins@ul.ie in Ireland. The NDLR uses innovative technologies and social networking tools to fosterAnn Marcus-QuinnAnn.Marcus.Quinn@ul.ie over thirty active communities of practice.Aisling Dundon The NDLR, with the aim of promoting and supporting higher education staff in theaisling.dundon@ul.ie collaboration, development and sharing of learning resources and associate teach-University of Limerick ing practices, has been a success on a national level for higher education in Ireland.Miriam Allen It currently hosts over 20,000 open digital resources, developed by higher educationmiriam.allen@dit.ie academics and also contains a number for resources from Jorum, an open online re-Catherine Bruen pository in the United Kingdom. This paper provides an in-depth look at a selection ofcbruen@tcd.ie these resources and their use by participants.Trinity CollegeTags 1. About the NDLR ServiceNDLR, Communities ofPractice, OER, HigherEducation 
 Figure 1: NDLR Logo (NDLR 2011) The The NDLR (Figure 1) is an open educational resource service, providing an open online repository and community portal (Figure 2), shared between the seven Universities and the fourteen Institutes of Technology in Ireland (NDLR 2011 a). The NDLR has been a success on a national level for higher education in Ireland, as it currently hosts over 20,000 open digital re- sources, developed by higher education academics and also contains a number for resources from Jorum, an open online repository in the United Kingdom (HEA 2009; Hunt 2011; IrlGov 2011; Jorum 2011). NDLR’s mission is “to promote and support higher education sector staff in the collaboration, development and sharing of learning resources and associate teaching practices” (NDLR 2011 a). Approximately 75% of the NDLR service budget directly funds local and national learning innovation projects. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 26 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 26 • October 2011Pap 1
  2. 2. In-depth that the project proposes to collaborate with three or more higher educa- tion institutions. These collaborative projects are modelled on European projects, with a ‘lead’ in- stitution coordinating the project in partnership with others. 3. Sustainable, Man- ageable, Active, Relevant and Reflective, Targeted Communities of Practice (SMART CoPs). SMART CoPs are cross-institutional subject discipline related communities associated with locally funded institu- 
 tional learning innovationFigure 2: NDLR Portal (NDLR 2011 a) projects (LIPS) and cross- institutional collaborative projects funded (LInCs) (McAvinia and Maguire 2011). SMART CoPs are communities in dif-The NDLR supports higher education academics and institutions ferent disciplines and subject areas, corresponding with thein the following three ways (Figure 3): 1. Local Innovation Projects (LIPS). Each partner institution receives an annual allocation of funding to support local aware- ness-raising and development of the NDLR. In 2010, over 140 lo- cal Learning Innovations Projects were developed by higher edu- cation academics across all sub- ject disciplines. 2. Learning Innovation Commu- nity Support Projects (LInCS). A national call for NDLR funding is offered on an annual basis and encourages institutions to col- laborate cross-institutionally to develop open educational resources. From 2009, to date, there have been more than 30 successful LInC projects. A cri- 
 Figure 3: NDLR Supports (NDLR 2011) terion of the national funding is ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eu eL ers 26 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 26 • October 2011 Pap 2
  3. 3. In-depth International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) The NDLR community portal, which was developed using Ma- subject taxonomy, composed of staff interested in the use hara open source software, uses innovative social networking and application of digital resources and technology in the tools to enable academics to communicate and collaborate with teaching of their subjects. Within these community areas each other. Currently, over thirty NDLR communities of practice higher education academics use social networking tools to are active. For the purposes of this research paper the ‘Health’ collaborate and to share their teaching and learning experi- SMARTCoP has been identified as a case study. Through the use ences, practices and resources of the online NDLR portal the ‘Health’ community of practice has developed over one thousand open reusable learning ob-2. Social Networking and the NDLR jects. In 2010 the ‘Health’ SMARTCoP successfully secured NDLR LInCS funding to develop a suite of reusable learning objects for Communities of Practice: A showcase of two national funded projects; ‘Clinical Assessment Training’ and the ‘Health’ SMARTCoP ‘The Principles of Infection Prevention and Control; the devel-A key impact of the NDLR service is to support greater collabo- opment of reusable learning objects’. Followed in 2011, by suc-ration in developing and sharing digital teaching resources and cessfully securing funding for three national funded projects;associated teaching experiences across all subject disciplines ‘The development of e-learning tools for dentistry’, ‘Mobile re-and communities of academics and to promote good practice usable learning resources for clinical assessment and technicaluse and re-use of existing resources (Jennings 2010). By being skills training’ and ‘eLearn Psychological Medicine’.empowered by the support of NDLR online communities, aca-demics and staff from different disciplines can share effort and The ‘Health’ SMARTCoP actively uses the following social net-expertise as they raise the bar collectively for how they support working features to collaborate and communicate with commu-their students’ learning, embed research in their teaching and nity members. The ‘Health’ SMARTCoP set up an online ‘Grouppotentially embracing partnerships with research and industry, Web/Homepage’, which outlines what the group is about, linksboth in Ireland and Internationally (NDLR 2011 a). to their reusable learning objects outputs, along with research interests. The SMARTCoP also has an online ‘Mem- ber Listing’ area, which enables members to view who is a member of the group with the facility to contact members with items of interest for ex- ample possible funding opportunities or collabo- rations. The ‘Forums’ area is ac- tively used by members, an example of popular fo- rums would be ‘News and Events’; ‘Funding Opportu- nities’; ‘Learning Resourc- es Swap Shop’; ‘Collabo- ration Room’. Members can subscribe to forums and receive updates when 
 new posts are submitted.Figure 4: NDLR Health SMARTCoP Homepage (NDLR 2011 b) Members can also set up ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eu eL ers 26 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 26 • October 2011 Pap 3
  4. 4. In-depth 
Figure 5: NDLR Health SMARTCoP Forum (NDLR 2011 b)and edit multiple ‘WebPages’ for their community area and can and share best practice teaching and learning initiatives, whichadd content and hyperlinks to resources and articles of inter- have resulted in the development of over 20,000 open and re-est for the community or embed videos from the ‘NDLR Vimeo usable learning objects. The use of social networking featuresChannel’, which currently hosts over two hundred and eighty within the NDLR communities supports best practice in the de-videos developed by higher education academics in Ireland. velopment of quality education resources and facilitates nation-Members can also ‘upload and share files’ with other members al collaboration, irrespective of the institutions that academicswho can view the files or learning resources and comment on are representing. The community areas are self-moderated bythem. The ‘Health’ SMARTCoP also has a ‘Group Tweets’ facility, community members, allowing academics to collaborate andwhere members can post timely tweets about items of interest, work on their own initiatives in their own free time with otherfor example funding opportunities or events, which go to the community members. Due to the support and success to theNDLR twitter page are also visible within the community ‘Group social networking aspects of the NDLR community areas, theTweets’ area. The NDLR also uses a Facebook and Twitter pages NDLR will continue to develop and enhance existing social net-as mediums of communication, along with an active Blog and working features and technologies based on the needs of theRSS feed. NDLR community.3. ConclusionThe NDLR actively uses social networking tools as mediumsof communication and collaboration, which have successfullyhelped to foster and maintain over thirty active communitiesof practice enabling members to communicate with each other,collaborate on the development of reusable learning objects ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eu eL ers 26 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 26 • October 2011 Pap 4
  5. 5. In-depthReferencesHigher Education Authority (HEA). (2009) Open and FlexibleLearning HEA Position Paper. [online], available: http://www.hea.ie/odl [accessed 3 January 2011].Hunt, C. (2011). National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030.http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/he_national_strategy_2030_report.pdf.IrlGov. (2011). Towards Recovery: Programme for a NationalGovernment 2011 – 2016. http://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/labour_towards_recovery_report.pdf: Oireachteas Eireann.Jennings, D. (2010). Content, Context And Consequence The ArtOf Collaboration: The Reality Of Communal Practice. InternationalConference of Education, Research and Innovation, ICERI 2010.Jorum (2011). [online], available: http://www.jorum.ac.uk/[accessed 6 September 2011].McAvinia, C. and Maguire, T. (2011) Evaluating theNational Digital Learning Repository (NDLR): new models ofCommunities of Practice. Link: http://ojs.aishe.org/index.php/aishe-j/article/view/39. AISHE-J: The All Ireland Journal ofTeaching and Learning in Higher Education,Vol 3, No 1.National Digital Learning Resources Service (NDLR). (2011a), [online], available: http://www.ndlr.ie [accessed 10 April 2011].National Digital Learning Resources Service (NDLR). (2011b), Health SMART CoP [online], available: http://www.ndlr.ie/institution/health-smart-cop [6 September 2011]. Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers Copyrights ISSN: 1887-1542 The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject Publisher: elearningeuropa.info to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. 3.0 Unported licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast pro- Postal address: c/Muntaner 262, 3r, 08021 Barcelona (Spain) vided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Phone: +34 933 670 400 Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. Email: editorial@elearningeuropa.info The full licence can be consulted on http://creativecommons.org/licens- Internet: www.elearningpapers.eu es/by-nc-nd/3.0/ ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 26 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 26 • October 2011Pap 5

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