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Building online communities: From Social to Professional networking

0048 ALT-C 2009 Tim Cappelli, Alisdair Smithies

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The Cloudworks Team
24 August 2009

ALT-C 2009 Session: This Cloud has been set up to aggregate live blogs, comments, discussion and links for this session.

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  • Tim Cappelli
  • Manchester University
  • Result of HELMET project
  • Wanted to develop community of practice/network among geographically distributed medical tutors
  • Website called ellaborate
  • Site based on Drupal - looks like fairly standard set of modules including forums, organic groups
  • Main things medics wanted to do was discuss and share content, wanted a closed space
  • Mapping orientation of activities for individuals vs organisation: Wenger, Whit and Smith 2007. Question of who owns a network.
  • Issues about discussing student issues, anonymity for rants.
  • Trying to identify anchors that really motivated people to participate in activity
  • Tasks get done within each group which has forum, chat room, blog. Groups are private within the community. Each group has one or more tasks - what the groups has been set up for. e.g. groups to review the curriculum.
  • Collaborative authoring - tried very solutions e.g. google docs, wikis. None of them satisfied the authors. Looked at literature. Sapsomboon, Andriati, Roberts and Sprintg (1997). 'When writing, the author many times makes notes or coments about the text. An important part of underanding the context of these notes is knowing the author'
  • List of success criteria for online collaborative authoring - criteria from the Sapsomboon paper. e-llaborate come out ahead of google docs, wiki, email and zoho. Users said they wanted something like track changes in Word. They developed a Drupal module that they developed, going to share with Drupal community hopefully in next six months. Also hoping to produce in Moodle too. Collaborative document has an editor who accepts changes, then another round of commenting.
  • Working with Thames Valley University to integrate with Alfresco content management system and Crampon (sp?) which is curriculum knowledge base to update documents in a live scenario, so dynamically building the curriculum. Medical school are developing new undergraduate programme and looking at using e-llaborate as key feature in that development. Also want to extend to other communities.

Juliette Culver
13:16 on 8 September 2009 (Edited 13:51 on 8 September 2009)

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Gráinne Conole
1:21pm 8 September 2009


Looks interesting, would love to know what worked and what didn't for them and what they balance was in terms of technological scaffolding and personal/human support.

Rebecca Galley
1:51pm 8 September 2009


Clear decision to offer a closed community rather than open for a number of very sound reasons. I wonder though, how important fresh ideas and new perspectives from people outside of a Community of Practice are in terms of sustainability, innovation, creativity and quality.

Gráinne Conole
1:55pm 8 September 2009


Good point Rebecca, this issue about closed vs. open just goes on and on. In my view though it boils down to what is most important for a particualar community, ie.

  • Closed debate so that the community can feel secure in what they are saying and sharing
  • Open debate to enable transferability of ideas and cross fertilisation

Rebecca Galley
2:30pm 8 September 2009


When you have an institutional social network, who 'owns' the network? And if it doesn't belong to the participants doesn't this impact too on the feelings of security in what they are saying and sharing?

Juliette Culver
6:43pm 8 September 2009


At the end I asked about whether anything had surprised them about people's behaviour and what things had made a difference in terms asking people to participate. No surprises apparently. In terms of participation, talked about make sure the network was of value. Apparently found look at dental school useful here, in terms of providing valuable information, blog posts etc. to draw people in.

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