Communities of practice, by definition, are opportunities for participants to learn from one another. Because communities tend to have a diverse membership from across geographic regions, there needs to be structured opportunities for participants to get to know and connect with one another.
The first face-to-face session is an excellent opportunity for participants to introduce themselves, identify common areas of interest, and share what kind of expertise they can offer one another. Creating opportunities for participants to get to know one another at the beginning will contribute to a sense of community during online meetings.
Consider using introduction activities strategically during the first face-to-face session by choosing engaging activities that create opportunities for participants to learn more about one another. For example:
It may be necessary to begin with a proposed list of topics for webinars, particularly when recruiting new members. However, once the community has been established, topics for webinars and other activities should be vetted with participants to ensure they address the interests, preferences and learning needs of this particular community.
The initial face-to-face session is an excellent opportunity to hear from participants about what kind of knowledge they want to build. This information can be collected through discussions and by asking participants to rank the relevance of proposed topics.
Understanding the general goals and priorities of other participants can help participants connect with, and learn from one another. Taking time in the initial face-to-face session for participants to review the goals of the community and then record and share goals for their jurisdiction or classroom can help participants identify others with similar priorities.