Developing communities of practice within and outside higher education institutions

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British Journal of Educational Technology

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University of Cape Town

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are largely built on the assumption that learning is an individual process best encouraged by explicit teaching that is, on the whole, separated from social engagement with those outside the university community. This perspective has been theoretically challenged by those who argue for a social constructivist learning theory and a more collaborative approach to learning. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) afford lecturers and students an opportunity for extending the boundaries of a learning experience, not merely beyond the lone individual, but beyond the limits of discipline boundaries within a specific university community and beyond the institution into the local community. This paper illustrates how a collaborative effort between lecturers and students from the Computer Science and Education Departments at Rhodes University, teachers from the local community, the provincial Department of Education and a non-governmental organisation developed into an unfolding virtual and physical community of practice which enabled ICT take-up in a number of schools in the Grahamstown District, South Africa. This discussion of what has become known as the e-Yethu project provides an example of how ICTs, underpinned by the insights of social constructivism, the notion of 'community of practice' and in particular Hoadley and Kilner's C4P Framework for Communities of Practice, can serve to help HEIs understand ways in which ICTs can provide opportunities for developing collaborative learning within HEIs, and between the HEI and the local community.

This is the accepted version of the following article: Hodgkinson-Williams, C., Slay, H. & Sieborger, I. 2008. Developing communities of practice within and outside higher education institutions. British Journal of Educational Technology. 39(3): 433–442. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00841.x., which has been published in final form at: