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Journal Article

Collaboration Creation: Lessons Learned From Establishing an Online Professional Learning Community  pp60-75

Colin Gray, Keith Smyth

© Mar 2012 Volume 10 Issue 1, ICEL 2011, Editor: Philip Balcean, pp1 - 158

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This paper describes the design, implementation, evaluation and further refinement of an ELGG‑based social networking site to support professional development activity, project group and special interest groups, and the discussion and sharing of educational experiences and resources across Edinburgh Napier University in the United Kingdom. Beginning with a short overview of what online institutional communities might offer in sustaining good learning, teaching and assessment practice in‑house, this paper then describes the rationale for and development of Edinburgh Napier Education Exchange (ENEE). The subsequent evaluation undertaken employed a mixed method approach involving online questionnaires and individual interviews with users of ENEE, and took place between January and April 2011. The evaluation had a twin focus on use and perceptions of ENEE in general, and how ENEE was beginning to be used to provide additional support opportunities for a diverse group of educators studying on Edinburgh Napier’s online distance learning MSc Blended and Online Education (MSc BOE). Overall the evaluation highlighted a range of ways in which ENEE was proving effective particularly in helping users to ‘keep abreast’ of educational practice across the institution, as well as in supporting small groups dedicated to specific purposes and activities. On the less positive side, the evaluation highlighted a number of issues and challenges around ease of use, engaging in ‘multiple spaces’, and achieving ‘critical mass’ in meaningful use. These findings pointed towards a number of enhancements that were implemented over summer and autumn 2011, and the nature of these recent post‑evaluation changes to ENEE and the MSc BOE group space are detailed in this paper.


Keywords: social networks, staff development, collaboration, social presence, lessons learned


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