Strategic Development of Online Communities: Learning from the Experience of Others to Enhance Provision for ITT (Learning and Skills)

Grant type: Development (2000-08)
Round: October 2006
Amount awarded £1,659.26
Completed: March 2007
Leader(s): Mr Keith Webb
Organisation: University of Huddersfield-The Consortium for PCET
Contact Email:
Contact phone: 01484 478117
Dr E.Smith, Associate Professor, Vocational Education and Training
School of Education, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia
Dr G.Defoe,Co-ordinator, Academic Staff Development
Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Dr R.Brennan, Course Co-ordinator, Vocational Education and Training
School of Education, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia
Prof. N.Bhindi, Director, Australian Centre for Eucational Leadership
University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Start Date: 10 January 2007
End Date: 30 November 2007
Interim report received: 8 July 2008
Final report received: 8 July 2008

Communities of practice generally, and online learning communities in particular, are currently receiving much attention in UK. Significant initiatives have established facilities that are proving both viable and valuable, but they are not yet as extensive or sophisticated as some elsewhere. The need to exploit new technolgies to support dispersed sets of learners has been more compelling where countries are large but with small populations.

This project will derive benefit from that overseas experience and expertise for UK providers of HE, particularly in teacher training for vocational education. The Development Grant is to support a study tour designed to inform the 2008-2010 Development Plan for recently established online communities serving 5,000 dispersed trainee Learning and Skills teachers at four English Universities.

Continued development of these communities requires moving towards more advanced, “second generation” versions involving "web 2" collaborative software – as already operate successfully overseas, notably in Australia and particularly in New South Wales.

The University of Wollongong is an acknowledged world leader in this process and Charles Sturt University there has special expertise in its application to vocational education. Engaging with the relevant staff there will greatly enhance the prospects for effective upgrading of “Associate On-line” communities, and also inform such developments more widely in UK.

Besides direct consultations with individual academics, the tour will involve participation in a Research Seminar at Charles Sturt University and a Conference on Strategic Leadership at the University of Wollongong.

The study tour is designed to build on the achievements of the FDTL 5 project No 160 ("Associate Online" 2005-07: see Its overall purpose is to inform construction of a feasible and appropriate Strategic Development Plan for Associate Online for 2008-2010.