Exploring Networks of Communities WIKI


Exploring Networks of Communities

July 6-24, 2009 | SCoPE Discussion


When does it make sense to have a network of communities? How do you go about supporting a network of communities? These are questions many of us are grappling with and we are finding there are many issues and challenges to consider! This 3-week seminar will be combined with weekly live "case study" sessions where we will hear from community leaders in higher education. Together we will explore the aspects and issues that can lead to a need for a network of communities based on these study cases and the practices of the participants. This is an initial exploration around this topic and we will identify new tasks, opportunities, and actions that emerge from the seminar. 

Case Studies

  1. CASE 1: Monday, July 6 | recording | slides
    The Learn Together Collaboratory (English)
    Paul Stacey
    and Andrew Marchand
  2. CASE 2: Tuesday, July 7 | recording | slides
    Colombian Ministry of Education (Spanish)
    Diego Leal
  3. CASE 3: Monday, July 13 | recording
    Education Network Australia (English)
    Nick Lothian
  4. CASE 4: Monday, July 20 | recording | slides
    Best Practice Models for E-learning (English)
    Helen Walmsley
  5. CASE 5: (Wednesday, July 22 | recording | slides
    Red Virtual de Tutores / The Virtual Tutoring Network (Spanish)
    Alvaro Galvis and Martha Isabel Tobon


Facilitators : Diego Leal and John Smith

Moderator: Sylvia Currie


Forum Participants: 

Webinar Participants: 

  • Alvero Galvis 
  • Andrew
  • Argemartinez
  • Paul Stacey 
  • Sylvia Currie 
  • B.J.
  • Barbara Dieu
  • Beatriz Garcia
  • Bee
  • Bety Diaz
  • Brent Lee
  • Caesar Castro
  • Carola
  • Carolyn Campbell
  • Christine Horgan
  • Cindy Xin 
  • Debra Beck
  • Deidre B
  • Diana Cuellar
  • Diego Leal 
  • Don
  • Edgaraltamirano
  • Gary Hunt
  • Gerry
  • Gladys
  • Gloritanc
  • Hector Domingo 
  • Hector Melo
  • Helen Walmsley
  • Isabel
  • Jenny Mackness
  • John Smith 
  • Karen Guldberg
  • Leonel Rodriguez
  • Luz Edith 
  • Marchina
  • Margot Croft
  • Martha Burkle
  • Martha Lucia Garcia 
  • Nancy
  • Nick Lothian
  • Rafalizcano
  • Richard 
  • Sarah de Jager
  • Shawn Berney 
  • Sue Wolf 
  • Sylvia Andreoli
  • Tracy Roberts 
  • Wills12


  • When does it make sense to have a network of communities?
  • How do you go about supporting a network of communities?
  • How can people make sense of the chaos?
  • Why don't institutions create an online community space for the entire institution with affiliated communities for each program area and the potential for each course to have its own community nested within?
  • To what extent can an online community mayor be mayor of multiple communities?
  • What other roles might complement that of mayor?
  • How can these roles be distributed across participants (which ones are paid vs. voluntary) and across a network of communities?
  • How can the mayor work such that they are behind the scenes supporting participants and not dominating the activity?
  • How can we federate high interest activities across multiple online communities?
  • What metrics of success should we report out to funders and other stakeholders to indicate whether an online community or network of online communities is succeeding?
  • What might we learn if we were to represent these meta networks and communities in a visual/graphical way? What do these meta networks look like? What form do they take? Does the form follow function? Does form and function inform the mechanisms/processes for stimulating, developing, sustaining over time? Do they fall on a continuum from formal to nonformal? Does context matter?
  • When building a network of online communities should we use the same technology platform for each (which often affords benefits from an administration point of view) or allow a diversity of technologies which allows each group to have a custom solution specific to their needs and interests (but often creates integration challenges)?
  • What is the right blend of these two types of activities: 1) Activities that are spontaneously self generated by the end users, and 2) Activities that are produced as events or intentional pre-planned things that happen in the "place" and can be anticipated?
  • How can you understand the entire situation enough to present a convincing case how a networked community WILL meet strategic goals and be cost effective?
  • Is there a need to have a centralized system to manage the different pieces of an educator's online presence? (And who should be in charge of such a system?)

Essential Considerations

  • Chaos is important
  • Plan for legitimate peripheral participation
  • Alternate versus super community
  • Extent to which new sites/tools replace existing
  • Who will be responsible for stimulating activity in an online community? All communities and networks of community require 'mayors'.
  • Networks of communities should primarily be a space for interaction, not content
  • Nesting / hierarchy is a simplifying model but may not match the developmental desires of the communities themselves
  • Participants need social, communication, technical, and networking skills to fully engage
  • Does the number of potential participants warrant a separate community space or can an affiliate space for the group be created within a larger existing online community?
  • Are the activities and objectives of the group related to an existing online community or completely separate and autonomous?
  • Does a group want a private or public online community? Or perhaps a blend of the two?
  • Users must feel ownership to be willing to contribute.
  • Anecdotal evidence is important for measuring success.
  • Multiple tools / platforms may be more desirable than attempting a one size fits nobody model. However, there are cost implications in terms of support and maintenance, and a user overhead cost dealing with complexity.
  • Ignore the technology solution component for as long as possible. Focus instead on "What will people do at this place?" And don't just speculate about what they'll do, ask them.
  • Ask the question: What are people doing in the various nodes and networks? A graphical representation could help to identify information flows, actors, and different interaction patterns that would have a huge impact in the design of an information system supporting a meta network/community.
  • The design of a network of communities is very different than the design of a network of repositories.
  • Open or closed? Private or public?

Architecture diagrams