Creating Communities of Practice among Librarians in an Online Learning Environment

Meranda Roy, is an Online Learning Librarian at the University of North Texas. Previously, she was the Faculty Development Specialist at the University of North Texas where she taught several graduate courses and numerous workshops for instructors related to pedagogy. In those courses and workshops, she tired various techniques to encourage the development of communities of practice. Her professional interests include teaching, educational technology, academic development, training and development, human resources, and mentoring.
A community of practice (CoP) is defined as a “group of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott, & Synder, 2002). In other words, people learn more effectively when they are engaging in practice with others. This provides an opportunity for members to informally share their varying levels of knowledge, sills, and experiences and to create an environment rich in diverse perspectives. This can be particularly useful for librarians wishing to learn more about the practice of effective facilitation of library-based and online teaching and learning.

A common challenge with busy librarians is finding a time to physically meet and share/create new knowledge. A possible solution to this dilemma is to create online communities of practice centered around relevant teaching and learning topics. This could provide several benefits for librarians, such as:
• Allowing for greater accessibility across a variety of librarians, communities, and time.
• Adapting quickly to meet the unique needs of librarians while teaching.
• Sharing curated resources from a variety of places and perspectives.

In this poster, I seek to apply the concept of an online CoP in an effort to suggest how librarians can join together as a community to learn and to share ideas, strategies, and tools related to effective teaching and learning. It is through this practice that I hope librarians in a community of practice generate a newer or deeper level of knowledge through the sum of the group rather than independently. These communities will be initially organized around topics such as meaningful and measurable objectives, learner-centered instructional strategies, formative assessments that drive instructional practice, and inclusive teaching practices that create positive learning environments for students.

Additionally, I intend to provide practical strategies and resources that librarians can take to create their own communities of practices in online environments. This will include topics such as encouraging dialog and varying levels of engagement, combining familiar and radical perspectives, and creating a rhyme for the community (Bates, 2016).

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