SideBars: Case study of an online community approach to professional development.
Millar, D. Glenn
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The rapid growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web has dramatically increased the need for educational practitioners to upgrade their skills and knowledge through professional development activity. This study explores the effectiveness of SideBars, an online learning community at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, in helping educators to upgrade their professional practice in online and distributed learning. Using evaluative case study within an action research framework, the study found that a majority of the users had minimal interest in a communal experience with SideBars but valued it as a reliable source of information. While low participation proved to be a formidable obstacle to communal learning, a smaller group of users, referred to as “contributors,” showed evidence of mutual engagement by virtue of their willingness to contribute to the learning of the group as a whole. The study concluded that design strategies aimed at encouraging the activity of contributors may be effective for building community online.