Building communities of practice in distance learning courses for higher education teacher development

Stephanie Fuller


A ‘communities of practice’ approach has been shown to be an effective way of supporting the development of educators within higher education (HE). It enables members of a group with common interests and experiences to learn from each other and to develop their professional practice together. Distance learning has become an increasingly important means of delivering professional development for teachers in HE, but to build and develop communities of practice in an online context can be a real challenge. This article explores the ways in which distance learning teacher development courses can effectively build communities of practice. It investigates participants’ experiences of community on modules with different distance learning delivery modes. It finds that a community of practice was developed to an extent, but that this was established more successfully within synchronous delivery modules with webinars than in asynchronous modules. However, across all modes of delivery, the presence of peer feedback, peer learning and collaborative activities within the learning design was crucial for effective development of a community of practice.


Community of practice; distance learning; teacher development; peer feedback; webinar

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