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What is a Community of Practice?

Are you looking to interact with people who are interested in Open Education Resources (OER)? Do you have ideas that you want to share with a wider audience and learn more about OER?  A Community of Practice (CoP) might be the right place for you.

The term ‘Community of Practice’ was created by Etienne Wenger, who offers a social theory of learning – a school of thought that proposes that humans can acquire new ideas and behaviours by observing others. The term has been used in various ways, and usually refers to informal networks that support people to develop shared meaning and engage in knowledge building.[1] A CoP is a group of individuals who share a domain of interest, which they use as a basis for interaction. Members of a CoP for OER might share resources, experiences, problems and solutions, tools, and methodologies. This results in members gaining knowledge from one another and, by extension, contributes to the development of knowledge within the domain of OER and the field of Open Educational Practices (OEPs) more broadly.[2]

A CoP is a great way to conduct advocacy and gain momentum for OER at your institution, within your organisation, or in your social circle. Some CoPs may involve projects like developing an OER strategy or distributing OER grants at an institution, while others may simply be aimed at knowledge sharing.

OER Africa published a report on CoPs, which is accessible here. Parts of this article are based on the report.

According to the report, CoPs have several defining characteristics, as illustrated in the graphic below.

Source: Hoosen, S. (2009). Communities of Practice: A research paper prepared by OER Africa

Important to note is that CoPs can take different forms and they vary across different dimensions; for example, they can be small and tight knit or large and loosely connected. The concept of virtual CoPs has gained increasing popularity as technology and the Internet open opportunities for faster and alternative means of communication with people who are geographically far away from each other. They have also become a very practical means of interacting with people who are interested in a particular subject field since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions it has created on face-to-face interaction and travel.

You can access more resources on CoPs here.

How do I set up a CoP for OER?

The success of a CoP ultimately depends on preparation and involves consideration of a number of key aspects. 

  1. Identify the scope and focus of the CoP for OER: Answer the following questions such as ‘What is the value proposition of the CoP?’ and ‘What will its scope be?’
  2. Build a case for action: Consider the purpose of the CoP and outline key deliverables over the next one to two years, as well as how the CoP will contribute to the OER movement. Think about how the CoP will satisfy members’ expectations.
  3. Identify a CoP facilitator: Since relationships are central to one’s sense of community, a facilitator is central to creating and maintaining a robust CoP. The facilitator should have sufficient time available to dedicate to the CoP and should be motivated, creative, and knowledgeable about OER. The facilitator will be responsible for organising meetings, maintaining and distributing knowledge resources, and monitoring the effectiveness of the CoP.
  4. Identify potential members and criteria for membership: Consider who the best people are to be part of the CoP. It might be useful to think about how to introduce diversity into the group through broad membership, so that there are wide-ranging perspectives. Depending on the scope of the CoP, you might consider approaching anyone from OER practitioners and advocates to librarians and institutional management.
  5. Highlight the benefits of joining the CoP to potential members: Benefits include faster solutions, reducing duplication of efforts, and enabling people to develop and share new ideas or strategies around OER promotion.
  6. Identify potential knowledge to share: Get community members to identify knowledge that would be useful to share.
  7. Decide on an initial technology platform: The platform/s should enable the group to communicate effectively and store resources. They should be easily accessible to all members.
  8. Consider how the CoP will be governed: Establish clear rules for decision-making and accountability, as well as what resources are available, what the key milestones or deadlines are, and who the stakeholders are, to name a few.

 

Once you have done the background preparation, you can start planning the official launch of your CoP. At the launch, it is good practice to develop a community charter. Thereafter, the CoP should determine the roles and responsibilities of community members, initiate events and spaces (such as meetings or OER advocacy activities), build a core group to drive the CoP, and find and share knowledge. Once you have passed the initial phase, here are some tips on ensuring that your CoP is effective and sustainable.

How do I find people who are interested in OER?

Struggling to find people who are interested in your preferred subject area? Here are some options for you to consider:

  • Reach out to your network: It can be surprising how you might share a common interest in OER with people in your network – even if you haven’t discussed it with them before. They might even be able to put you in contact with someone they know who is interested in OER or looking to gain knowledge.
  • Search on LinkedIn: One of the benefits of LinkedIn is that you can search for keywords and come across thought leaders, organisations, different stakeholders, or people with a general interest in OER. You can strike up a conversation by sending a message on LinkedIn.
  • Do your research: Use a search engine to look for resources and websites with information about OER. Find out who is producing this knowledge and approach them to gauge their interest in being a CoP member. 

Access the links below to see some CoPs for OER, and OEPs more broadly, in action:

Ultimately, developing a CoP for OER is a wonderful way of learning, sharing knowledge, and advocating for OER use. As long as you maintain a clear sense of the scope of your CoP and ensure that all of the CoP’s activities contribute to its case for action, it can make a valuable contribution to the OER movement.

 


[1] Hoosen, S. (2009). Communities of Practice: A research paper prepared by OER Africa. Retrieved from https://www.oerafrica.org/system/files/7779/cop1-web_0.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=7779

[2] Gannon-Leary, P. and Fontainha, E. (2007). Communities of Practice and virtual learning communities: benefits, barriers and success factors. eLearning Papers. Retrieved from https://www.oerafrica.org/system/files/7680/communities-practice-and-virtual-learning-communities_0.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=7680


For more articles in this series, click on the links below.

What's New

Assessment always has a purpose. We need to be clear on that purpose in our learning design work. But that purpose can vary. In this article aimed at educators, we explore assessment of, for, and as learning to think about the purpose of assessment and to help us think about integrated summative assessment.

 

Image courtesy of  Lagos Techie. Unsplash

Assessment always has a purpose. We need to be clear on that purpose in our learning design work. But that purpose can vary. In this article aimed at educators, we explore assessment of, for, and as learning to think about the purpose of assessment and to help us think about integrated summative assessment.

In a previous article about online assessment, we asked ‘How do we know if students are learning?’ We spoke about the value of formative assessment as part of activity-based teaching and learning. We suggested that formative assessment activities form an important part of an integrated summative assessment strategy.

But what do we mean? Traditionally,

"Formative assessment occurs before or during teaching. It is a way of assessing students’ progress, providing feedback and making decisions about further instructional activities. It is assessment for learning purposes. Summative assessment is conducted after instruction primarily as a way to document what students know, understand and can do. It is an assessment of learning and its aim is to ‘sum up’ the learning that has taken place." (Waspe, 2020)

But Waspe goes on to say:

"There isn’t always a clear split between formative and summative assessment: some activities may fall somewhere in the middle. For example, a test at the end of a section of material may be used for marks (summative) but the lecturer may also analyse it to identify which competences need strengthening going forward (formative)." (Waspe, 2020)

Assessment and learning

We know there is an integral relationship between assessment and learning. We can see this when we unpack three important forms of assessment:

Assessment of learning

Assessment of learning measures the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values students have demonstrated at the end of a learning cycle.

Assessment for learning

Assessment for learning checks what students understand and can do as part of the learning process. It helps to identify any misunderstandings, difficulties, or gaps in knowledge so educators can adjust teaching to address these.

Assessment as learning

Assessment as learning involves the student ‘thinking about how they are thinking’ and using what they discover to make adjustments to how they approach learning. Assessment as learning helps students notice their own thoughts and processes, called metacognition, and make changes to those thoughts and processes, called self-regulation.

Let’s think about these three forms of assessment in relation to formative and summative assessment.

In his article about assessment for learning, Wiliam (2011) agrees with Bennett (2009) that it is unhelpful, and simplistic, to equate assessment for learning with formative assessment and assessment of learning with summative assessment. Bennett suggests that assessments designed primarily to serve a summative function may also function formatively, while those designed primarily to serve a formative function may also function summatively.

Let’s look at an example:

This is an example of an activity in which students are learning about the impact of globalisation in an economics course. Let’s analyse the activity for opportunities for assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and assessment as learning.

 Activity: The impact of globalisation 

 Purpose

Create a diagram which reflects the impact of globalisation on an industry of your choice

 Resources

Reading A

Reading B

 Task

 [60 minutes]

  1. In small groups, recall what you already know about globalisation, and share your thoughts.
  2. Individually research and read theories of globalisation, summarising the key ideas.
  3. Again in small groups, share your research findings. Use the theories to agree on a definition of globalisation and unpack different aspects of globalisation.
  4. Individually analyse each aspect of globalisation in relation to your chosen industry. Create a diagram which shows what you have learned.
  5. Write a short narrative summary to accompany the diagram, which shows your understanding of the impact of globalisation in your selected industry.

 Reflect, share and respond

  • Share your final diagram and narrative with your group peers.

 Feedback

  • Give and receive feedback from each other.
  • Refine your work if necessary.
  • Receive and read feedback from your educator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example adapted from OER Africa: https://www.oerafrica.org/supporting-distance- learners/case-studies-using-asynchronous-communication

In this example, we believe we can identify all three forms of assessment:

Assessment of learning

Assessment for learning

Assessment as learning

  • What students already know
  • Agreeing on a definition and aspects of globalisation
  • Creating a diagram
  • Writing a narrative summary
  • Discussing with peers and critiquing final diagrams and narratives, students will identify what they don’t know and adapt their work accordingly.
  • The educator could ask students to submit both their first revised diagrams and narratives, for comparison purposes.
  • From the diagrams and narratives the educator will identify gaps and misconceptions to integrate into future teaching.

As part of the discussions, reflections, responses and feedback with each other and from their educator, students will be able to think about how they learned, what helped them to learn and how they can improve their learning strategies in future.One way of enhancing this aspect of assessment and learning would be to ask students explicit reflection questions about their learning.

 

Integrated activity-based summative assessment

What does this mean for how we think about integrated summative assessment?

Most definitions of integrated assessment include ideas about gathering and presenting evidence for judgement against standards, outcomes and criteria, using a combination of assessment methods and instruments, in different contexts, supporting learners to demonstrate understanding of theory in practice.

When we integrate assessment of, for, and as learning into activity-based teaching and learning, we design integrated (summative) assessment that supports integrated learning. In certain cases, it might be useful to think about summative (and formative) assessment as gathering evidence for the purposes of marking, recording, and promotion. But when we want to ‘stop worrying about testing and start thinking about learning’ and we are challenged to think about assessment differently for whatever reason, we can use activity-based teaching that integrates assessment for, of, and as learning to support and guide students’ learning towards success.

In the ‘Impact of globalisation’ example above, we saw the integration of assessment of, for, and as learning in a single activity. But integrated summative assessment could also be the integration of formative and summative assessment over a series of activities for a whole unit or module of study, or even a whole course.

The same basic rules of assessment will apply, so that activities are fair, reliable, and valid. Let’s consider what criteria and elements activity-based design would need to incorporate in order to constitute valid, fair, reliable, and integrated assessment of, for, and as learning:

  • Do the activities have a clear purpose that is clear to students?
  • Are the activities aligned to one or more outcomes?
  • Are the activities logically sequenced along a learning pathway?
  • Are the activities and tasks fit for purpose for different students in different contexts?
  • Is there a range of activities or tasks that give students the opportunity to engage and learn in different ways?
  • Are there clear guidelines that help students understand what they are expected to do individually or collaboratively?
  • Are all the activities accessible to all students, whether they have an Internet connection or not, whether they are on campus or not, whether they have access to devices or not?
  • Do all students have access to the resources necessary to do the activities?
  • Do the activities provide sufficient opportunities for students to collaborate?
  • Do the activities provide sufficient opportunities for students to reflect on their own and each other’s learning (self and peer reflection)?
  • Do the activities encourage students to give and receive feedback in meaningful ways?

Consider an assessment activity or task you have recently given to students. To what extent does the activity promote assessment of, for, and as learning? Which of the above criteria and elements does the activity address? What tasks can you add to the activity to ensure students have opportunities for assessment of learning, for learning, and as learning? What activities could you add, before or after this activity, to create a more integrated activity-based learning and assessment pathway as part of your materials design?

References

Bennett, R. E. (2009). A critical look at the meaning and basis of formative assessment (ETS RM-09-06). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Waspe, T and Louton, B. (2020). Rethinking TVET Assessment, Advanced Diploma Technical and Vocational Training, DHET. (See also https://nols.gov.za/dhetnols/)

Wiliam, Dylan. (2011). ‘What is assessment for learning?’ Studies in Educational Evaluation. 37. 3-14. 10.1016/j.stueduc.2011.03.001.

Related articles

Access the OER Africa Communications Archive here

You may have seen ArXiv pop up in your science-related or open access repository searches. ArXiv is an open access repository for pre-prints and post-prints that have been moderated but not peer reviewed.

Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute, Unsplash

What is ArXiv?

You may have seen ArXiv pop up in your science-related or open access repository searches. For those of us who are still wondering how to say it, it is pronounced ’archive’. The X represents the Greek letter, c, which is pronounced ‘ch’ and thus spells out archive.  

ArXiv is an open access repository for pre-prints[1] and post-prints[2] that have been moderated but not peer reviewed. It was the first freely available, open access repository, established years before Creative Commons or other mechanisms were available or the Internet became ubiquitous. ArXiv was established in 1991 as a way for physicists and mathematicians to circulate their research for comment before peer review and publication in a journal. It was developed with distribution formats few people use today — File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Gopher, and Mosaic (the world’s first Internet browser). According to Wikipedia:[3]

In many fields of mathematics and physics, almost all scientific papers are self-archived on the arXiv repository before publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Some publishers also grant permission for authors to archive the peer-reviewed postprint.

ArXiv has become tremendously important for scientists worldwide. On this, its 30th birthday, there are almost 2 million articles posted on the site in physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering, systems science, and economics. 

In the 30 years since ArXiv’s  founding, many additional servers for different disciplines and regions have been established, all on the Xiv model.  AfricArXiv, for Africa, is discussed in detail below. Two preprint servers in the biomedical sciences have received considerable attention because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the publication of several highly quoted articles in the mass media and research publications.[4]  But how much relevance do ArXiv and the other servers have for Africa?

How relevant are preprint servers to Africa?

ArXiv and the disciplinary servers that followed aim to help scientists worldwide share results and get feedback quickly without waiting for publication in journals.  Although bibliometric surveys have not been done for all of the servers, two in the biomedical sciences point to the paucity of African research appearing in them.  A 2020 survey of in eLife, of over 67,000 articles posted on bioRxiv found that international authorship and collaboration of African researchers was scant and most were not principal author.  Table 1 shows which were the 11 most published African countries in bioRxiv.[5]

Table 1: Which African countries publish the most in bioRxiv?

Figure 1: The good news[6]

When the researchers dug deeper into subject matter and where the research was carried out, they found:

Figure 2: Digging deeper[7]

This is important research for those of us who care about the contribution of African scientists to the global knowledge pool.  The role of scientists has evolved over the course of the pandemic – they are becoming more public-facing, which can significantly improve dissemination of accurate information in any given country.  Examples include Dr. Anthony Fauci[8] and Dr. John Nkengasong.[9] It is also important to encourage representation so that we can learn from other approaches and develop solutions that cater for diverse populations. 

 

AfricArXiv

In 2018, African scientists established an open access African preprint server, called AfricArXivto promote better visibility for African research and enhanced collaboration throughout the continent. AfricArXiv’s African focus has a special set of objectives, among them:

  • It is an African-owned open scholarly repository, a knowledge commons of African scholarly works to catalyze the African Renaissance.
  • Submissions must be relevant to Africa, with at least one African author.
  • Language is important in Africa, where AfricArXiv estimates that over 2,000 are spoken, a number which has been confirmed elsewhere.[10] All submissions must be accompanied by a summary in English and French to ease language gaps. Automated translation is allowed and must be acknowledged because these translations are not always accurate.  AfricArXiv also uses volunteer translators. In addition, AfricArXiv encourages postings in African languages and is partnering with Masakhane to undertake human translation of articles into African languages. AfricaArXiv writes about the significance of translation as follows:[11]

We encourage submissions in languages that are commonly used by the scientific community in the respective country, such as English, French, Swahili, Zulu, Afrikaans, Igbo, Akan, or other native African languages. Manuscripts submitted in non-English languages will be held in the moderation queue until we can get them verified. We herewith encourage you to suggest people who could assist in moderating in your language.

For those who want to know more about the significance of preprint servers, we encourage you to read Ten simple rules to consider regarding preprint submission, which was published in May 2017 in PLOS Computational Biology, an open access and highly prestigious journal. The article has been viewed over 44,000 times and cited 61 times.[12]

For those who would like more information on the lack of representation of African science in the journal literature, please see Where there is no local author: a network bibliometric analysis of authorship parasitism among research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, published on 27 October 2021 in BMJ Global Health.[13]  It demonstrates how few African biomedical researchers receive recognition for research results from their own countries.  See also the journal’s editorial on ‘parachute’ research: Using scientific authorship criteria as a tool for equitable inclusion in global health research.[14]

 

This has been one of OER Africa’s communications on open knowledge, which we will continue to explore in future communications.


Related articles

Access the OER Africa Communications Archive here

 


[1] Wikipedia contributors. (2021b, October 8). Preprint. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preprint (CC BY-SA)

[2] Wikipedia contributors. (2021b, October 1). Postprint. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postprint (CC BY-SA)

[3] Wikipedia contributors. (2021, September 7). ArXiv. Wikipedia. Retrieved 13 October 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArXiv#Moderation_process_and_endorsement (CC BY)

[4] Ginsparg, P. Lessons from arXiv’s 30 years of information sharing. Nat Rev Phys 3, 602–603 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42254-021-00360-z (Freely available but copyright protected.  Springer Nature has a content-sharing initiative, which does not permit printing; the link for this article is https://rdcu.be/czHnW.

[5] Abdill RJ, Adamowicz EM, Blekhman R. International authorship and collaboration across bioRxiv preprints. Elife. 2020 Jul 27;9:e58496. doi: 10.7554/eLife.58496. PMID: 32716295; PMCID: PMC7384855. (CC BY)

[6] Guleid, F. H., Oyando, R., Kabia, E., Mumbi, A., Akech, S., & Barasa, E. (2021, March 17). A bibliometric analysis of COVID-19 research in Africa. MedRxiv. Retrieved 19 October 2021 from https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.03.15.21253589v1(CC BY)

[7] Guleid FH, Oyando R, Kabia E, et al, A bibliometric analysis of COVID-19 research in Africa, BMJ Global Health 2021; https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/5/e005690. (CC BY)

[10] Wikipedia contributors. (2021d, October 23). Languages of Africa. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from Wikipedia contributors. (2021d, October 23). Languages of Africa. Wikipedia. Retrieved November3, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Africa (CC BY)

[11] Languages – AfricArXiv. (n.d.). AfricArXiv. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://info.africarxiv.org/languages/ (CC BY)

[12] Bourne PE, Polka JK, Vale RD, Kiley R (2017) Ten simple rules to consider regarding preprint submission. PLoS Comput Biol 13(5): e1005473. Retrieved 20 October 2021 from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005473 (CC0)

[13] Rees CA, Ali M, Kisenge R, et al Where there is no local author: a network bibliometric analysis of authorship parasitism among research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa BMJ Global Health 2021. https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/10/e006982. (CC BY-NC)

[14] Sam-Agudu NA, Abimbola S. Using scientific authorship criteria as a tool for equitable inclusion in global health research. BMJ Global Health 2021. https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/10/e007632 (CC BY-NC)

 

Are academics at your institution struggling to find the time and space to invest in their own continuing professional development (CPD)? With so many competing priorities, many academics find it difficult squeeze CPD in among their other daily responsibilities.

Are academics at your institution struggling to find the time and space to invest in their own continuing professional development (CPD)? With so many competing priorities, many academics find it difficult squeeze CPD in among their other daily responsibilities. CPD is often the first thing to be jettisoned in busy schedules. Gone is the time when five days of training could be allocated to improving the skills and knowledge of academics. So how might we rethink academics’ CPD to make it more accessible and relevant? 

OER Africa is conducting research on different CPD methods that might resonate with busy academics. We are advocating repackaging training to be appealing, engaging and relevant to today’s academic. Below is an interactive report developed to showcase some of the initial findings of this research. Initially presented as part of the OE Global’s 2021 CONNECT conference, it is now made available for your attention, right here.

Please click the link below to access the interactive presentation, but be warned, your active participation will be required! Please complete the interactive components of the presentation honestly and fully as we would like to use your data as part of the research process.

                              

Related articles: