Title: Evaluating the development of a community of e-learning researchers: from short-term funding to sustainability

Authors: Rhona Sharpe, Jenny Mackness

Addresses: Wheatley Campus, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, OX33 1HX, UK. ' Ryecroft, Main Street, Burton, Carnforth, Lancs, LA6 1ND, UK

Abstract: This paper reports an evaluation of a special interest group created to support e-learning researchers. The study aimed to examine the ways in which short term funding is used to support the development of a community and the sustainability challenges facing this emerging community of practice when initial funding ceased. The iterative, formative evaluation process drew on statistics of community membership and use of the online community space, and surveys responses. The challenges faced were found to be similar to those common to any community of practice, i.e., the determination of domain, the identity of the community and the processes of communication within and across community boundaries. Wenger|s communities of practice model was shown to be useful in diagnosing key tensions between the individual and the collective, between expert and novice researchers and between the core membership and the periphery of the community. The implications are discussed for the creation of project funded communities.

Keywords: evaluation of learners experiences of e-learning special interest group; ELESIG; electronic learning; higher education; universities; education research; communities of practice; researchers; Etienne Wenger; sustainable communities; UK; United Kingdom; short-term funding; sustainability; iterative evaluation; formative evaluation; online community space; surveys; domain determination; community identity; communication; community boundaries; tensions; individuals; collectives; experts; novices; core membership; community peripheries; project funded communities; virtual communities; web based communities; online communities; learning communities; web based research networks.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2010.032232

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2010 Vol.6 No.2, pp.148 - 163

Published online: 17 Mar 2010 *

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