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

What is a professional community?

What exactly is a professional community? When can it be considered successful? And what is the role of the professional community in open educational resources?

What is a professional community?

A lot has already been written about professional communities and a lot of research has been done. The most common starting point for a professional community is the community of practice, a theory developed by Etienne Wenger. Wenger describes a community of practice as a group of people with a shared concern or passion for a particular topic, craft or profession (Wenger, 1998, 2002). The community has its own objective. By meeting regularly, members improve their knowledge and gain further experience. The interaction can take place face-to-face, but also online. Or a combination of the two.

Structure/size There are some relatively closed professional communities in which all members know each other well, but there are also large professional communities in which people can easily join in the periphery.

An objective of a professional community might be to improve the quality of subject teaching by creating and distributing learning materials together.

The usefulness or necessity of a community can vary:

  • Shared ideals, for example, members may share the desire to make open learning the norm.
  • Shared circumstances, for example, the members are all employed in higher education.
  • Shared interest or fascination, for example, the members are all specialists in the same field.
  • Shared location or workplace, for example, the members are all employed in the Netherlands and Belgium, or in a specific region.

When can a community be considered successful?

Ideally, the community will be able to stand on its own feet after being founded. If this can be done without external funding and without the original core team, there is a good chance that the community will continue to flourish independently.

From the good practice Professional community 4TU.Ethics:

‘In 2 years, we want to produce at least 60 learning materials, but most importantly, we want to develop a process in which the fresh supply of learning materials continues beyond the life of the project.’
Tijn Borghuis, managing director 4TU.Ethics, TU Eindhoven

Professional communities and open educational resources

Professional communities play an important role in the creation, sharing and reuse of open educational resources. For example, there are professional communities that take stock of the open educational resources that its individual members already have. Their aim is to work together to build a high-quality collection and present it in a uniform way. Other professional communities are established with the aim of working together to develop online educational resources (including OER).

From the good practice Professional community 4TU.Ethics:

‘There has long been a desire to systematically present and edit learning materials so that they can also be used without having to meet the lecturer who made them. Each participating institution in our professional community has its own editor, who ensures the learning materials are correctly formatted for sharing.’
Tijn Borghuis, managing director 4TU.Ethics, TU Eindhoven

In this roadmap, we assume that a professional community has the aim of creating, sharing and reusing open educational resources. 

The connective teacher

Networks are excellent places to learn. In ‘The connective teacher: Network learning for a sustainable profession’(2019), Ellen van den Berg, Marjon Baas and Wilfred Admiraal argue that today's professional lecturer is a connective lecturer.

Affiliated lecturers collaborate with others to create the best teaching for their students. In the context of 'lifelong learning’, they are always open to new knowledge. They connect to various professional networks in an informed way and take the insights they gain back to their own institutions and lecture theatres. They are firmly rooted in society, are aware of the latest developments, especially concerning the digital transformation, but they are also aware of the value of cultural diversity, for example.

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

‘By developing learning materials together, you get to know each other and this benefits collaboration in other areas too. For example, each university of applied sciences is now facing the question of how to organise practical lessons during the Covid pandemic. Members of the professional community are now sharing protocols and fact sheets.'
Dorine Koopman, Community Manager for SAMEN hbo-verpleegkunde (nursing), Saxion