Roadmap: build a professional community around open education resources

If you create, share and reuse open educational resources, it is absolutely essential to collaborate with other lecturers. Collaboration becomes easier in an active professional community. Use this roadmap to help you build a community around open educational resources. 

Oudere man met jongere man kijkend naar interactief scherm

Step 3. Setting up the basic organisation of the community

In this step, we'll look at the basic things you need to put in place for your community. You will think about creating a sense of community, and you will start to elaborate on the details of who will fulfil what role and who will undertake what activities. The finances will also come up for discussion. 

Sense of community

Maslov examined some time ago the importance of people feeling part of a group. In online communities, this community feeling, the feeling of belonging to something, is no less important. See the table below: Community Building on the Web.

community building on the web

When you work together as a community on open educational resources, it contributes to a sense of belonging to your community and knowing that you are doing something worthwhile together. Members will then be more likely to actively participate in the community. Members will really get something out of it, and you will get to know and trust each other. In an article (in Dutch) ‘Breng je online community tot bloei met een concreet doel' ('Bring your community to life with a specific goal'), trend-watching website Frankwatching cites David McMillan, who has conducted research into the Sense of Community. A sense of community can be divided into 4 pillars:

  • Membership (a sense of belonging)
  • Influence (a sense of being able to make a difference)
  • Needs fulfilment (a feeling of getting something in return)
  • Emotional bond (a feeling of sharing something with each other)

Make sure these 4 pillars have a place in your specific goals and the actions you will carry out. Make sure you link into the culture of your particular professional field: everything you do has to fit in with the culture of your professional field. 

From the Good Practice Professional Community Collaboration for Maths Teacher Training Programmes:

'Institutions now feel they are missing out on something if they don't join our professional community. Participating in the professional community is a way of getting to know your colleagues better and having some fun with your subject'.
Theo van den Bogaart, teacher trainer in mathematics at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences

Development phases of communities

Wilfried Admiraal, Ditte Lockhorst and Jakko van der Pol developed a descriptive model for teacher communities. In this model, they work from the premise of a group of connected teachers, who participate together in discussions and decision-making, and who share and build knowledge, with: 

  • a single group identity: a shared commitment that connects a group of teachers within a social entity, or group
  • a shared domain: a shared enterprise with shared goals, with a shared understanding by all group members, but where negotiation is an ongoing process. 
  • a shared interactive repertoire: All group members have the same ideas of how the members in the group should treat each other and act accordingly. 

According to the model, a successful community develops in 3 phases:

  1. In the beginning, there is little sense of group identity within the community, the members share limited shared patterns and procedures and the willingness to be active within the domain is still at a low level. 

  2. In a developing community, there is a growing awareness of group identity and increasing development of joint activities.

  3. In a community that has matured, the processes within the community are in balance, shared and focused on a shared domain and sense of group identity.

Read more

Admiraal et al. (2012) An expert study of a descriptive model of teacher communities.

TIP

Who do you want to launch a community with? Start small with dedicated people to set up the foundational elements. Start with a specific action plan for the initial period. How do you want to grow? When will you be satisfied? 

Tasks and roles in the community

Creating and maintaining a community takes time and energy. To prevent a community from suffering a slow death, you will need to actively organise a number of things. In step 1, you already assembled a core team, but there are other roles that you need to assign and organise. Define what tasks there are and who is responsible for doing what. Which roles should be represented also depends on your objective. Make sure that people who are going to fill these roles are actually going to do so. Here it is important that they have a clear picture of what is expected of them and how much time the work will take. Ask the contributors explicitly if they can live up to the expectations.  

Within a community, the following roles are important. A member may perform several roles. For example: 

  • Community manager: You can think of this as a project leader of the community. In many communities, experience has shown that this is an essential role. More tasks for the community manager are described in this article by Frankwatching (in Dutch). 
  • Ambassadors: These are members who are active contributors and actively encourage people to contribute.
  • Online community coordinator/editor: This role maintains an online collaboration environment and platform (where applicable). Manages the forum and organises online exchanges.
  • Communications officer: This person is responsible for communication activities and is responsible for the activities calendar, for instance. This is a specialist task and is often underestimated.
    • Tip: if the person in the community who is given this role has no background in communications themselves, establish contact with a communications consultant at your institution for advice.
  • Newbie greeter: To make new members feel comfortable and welcome, it is important that they have personal and individual contact as soon as they enrol. This is the responsibility of the newbie greeter. He or she helps new members to find their way.

Are you looking to build an online community? Read the article How to build an engaged online community for more information about the various roles. It also contains interesting resources for more reading. 

There are a few specific roles that will be needed for the creation and sharing of open educational resources:

  • Creating learning materials: lecturers or collaborating lecturers 
  • Entering materials in the repository: repository manager
  • Copyright verification 
  • Promote reuse and raise awareness 
  • Quality officer of open educational resources (see the Quality assurance of open educational resources).

In step 4, we will look more closely at the specific organisation around open educational resources. The roles will have to match this.

Different types of membership

The community consists of a diverse group of people. Make sure you assign the right roles to the right people. The following two theories may help you with this. Bartle's taxonomy of player types names the various types of members: Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers and Killers. Belbin distinguish 9 roles that should be present in a team: the implementor, the resource investigator, the plant, the monitor evaluator, the shaper, the coordinator, the completer finisher, the teamworker and the specialist. One person can have multiple roles. 

Activities: what does your community do? 

Depending on your goals, you could organise a number of different activities. In addition, every community needs meeting places. These may be physical, but nowadays also online, of course. Decide for your community which activities you want to organise face-to-face and which online. Answer the question: how and where will we come together and what will we do together?

From the Good Practice Professional Community Collaboration for Maths Teacher Training Programmes:

'It is important to meet regularly because everyone is busy and the meetings provide a logical deadline for new resources.'
Theo van den Bogaart, teacher trainer in mathematics at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences

Below are examples of activities for the various goals your community can pursue.

 

Face-to-face

Online

Sharing and exchanging knowledge in the professional field

  • Congress
  • Away-day
  • Flyers
  • Forum/platform
  • Newsletter 
  • Webinar
  • Discussion forum
  • Q&A
  • Knowledge clips
  • Articles

Collaboration & co-creation 

  • Congress
  • Away-day
  • Publish a book
  • Publish an article
  • Publish an article/book/good practices
  • Blog
  • Digital learning materials

Inspiration 

  • Congress
  • Publish an article/book/good practices
  • Publish an article/book/good practices
  • TedTalks by experts

Connections

  • Congress
  • Discussion groups
  • thematic groups
  • Members' directory 
  • Forum
  • Q&A
  • Webinar
  • Members' directory 
  • Personal announcements corner
  • Facilitate teamwork/cooperation 

Profiling

  • Presenting at a congress
  • User profiles, ratings

Improving teaching (including your own)

  • Educational resources
  • Sharing work forms (exercises) 
  • Digital learning materials
  • Sharing work forms (exercises) 

Create a collection of open educational resources

  • Digital learning materials work/co-creation session 
  • Subject vocabulary 
  • Building and publishing a collection of digital learning materials
  • Quality mark

From the article Professional communities, experts have their say about the role of professional communities from a theoretical perspective:

A successful professional community is a close-knit community in which the members know each other well and are therefore far more likely to share educational resources and other knowledge products with each other. Does the professional community only meet online? Don't just organise video meetings but also "watercooler moments" where the conversations can be about anything and everything.'
Karel Kreijns, Professor of Technology-Enhanced Collaborative Learning, Open University of the Nethe

TIP: create a content calendar 

Make your goals and activities as specific as possible. Creating a content calendar could be a valuable tool. Plot out a timeline showing when what will be done in and for the community. 

Online community platform

You will probably want to use a digital community platform for the online activities. Choose a platform which allows you to perform all the activities you want. 

From the Good Practice Professional Community SAMEN hbo-verpleegkunde (nursing

'The success of our professional community is closely linked to our communication platform, hbovpk.nl, which is a social intranet. It was built by an external supplier and its aim is to share knowledge, news and experiences. This is where we highlight what has been made. The best advertisement for open educational resources is seeing what happens.'
Dorine Koopman, Community Manager for SAMEN hbo-verpleegkunde (nursing), Saxion

Also consider who will have access to the community page. Will it be an open system where anyone can access it, or will it be protected behind a login so you can decide who can and who can't connect? This will be an important factor in your choice of platform.

Examples of community pages:

A number of community platforms have features to help you share learning materials openly:

  • OERcommons: Free platform with community features. Also create educational resources together. Linked to your own search portal.
  • Merlot: Free platform with community features. Linked to your own search portal.

In edusources, you can create a community page where you can publish your collection of open educational resourves and link to other community-related websites.

When do you belong to the community: members list

How can you become a member of the community? In the online version, you can usually create your own profile and become a member of the community. When people are able to present themselves, it contributes to the sense of community.

Nobody likes freeloaders. Accountability is only possible if no one can remain anonymous. Make sure that everyone has to log in. Comprehensive profile pages with photos, links and a CV make it difficult to 'cheat'. It can also create a barrier to joining, so think carefully about what is workable and desirable for your community. 

Finance

The biggest cost in collaborating on open educational resources is time. Publishing learning materials openly and setting up a safe and convenient place to work together also costs time and money. It is therefore advisable to tie in with the infrastructure and possibilities of the educational institutions. This makes it easier for people to get involved without having to make (large) financial contributions. In addition, funding will be needed to organise activities.

TIP

To keep costs as low as possible, find out what support your professional association can offer your community. 

From the article Professional communities, experts have their say about the role of professional communities from a theoretical perspective:

'The end of a funding stream often means the end of the community. Financial support from the institutions is needed. Institutions should consider the creation and sharing of OER so important for their own education process that they free up people to participate in the professional community.'
Karel Kreijns, Professor of Technology-Enhanced Collaborative Learning, Open University of the Nethe