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Designing an Online Community of Practice

Authors: Alysia Wright, Lyliam Jardine, Lorelei Anselmo, and Dr. Patti Dyjur, PhD

To design a thoughtful and mutually beneficial online community of practice (OCoP), we developed a seven-stage framework. While it may be useful for readers to approach these stages like sequential steps, the framework is well-suited to an iterative approach that accommodates rapidly changing conditions and needs. At each stage of the framework, we suggest asking the following reflective questions to prompt intentional design of your OCoP.

If you would like to have a conversation about developing an OCoP or about how to put each stage into action, please contact Alysia Wright at

Reflective Questions for Designing Online Communities of Practice

Stage 1: Context and needs

  • What has prompted the need to create an OCoP?
  • Who is the audience or membership?
  • How will members be recruited?
  • How is the OCoP delivered?

Stage 2: Technology and space

  • Which technologies could/should be used in the OCoP and to what purpose?
  • How will the online environment be maintained and facilitated?
  • Where will members interact with each other?
  • How will decisions around technology and space determine who is included and who is excluded from participating?

Stage 3: Leadership

  • How are members sharing leadership within the OCoP?
  • What opportunities do members have to inform or shape the goals and outcomes of the activities?
  • What role will external experts or invited guests play in the OCoP?

Stage 4: Flexibility

  • How will members access materials and content?
  • What types of meetings will be offered?
  • When will meetings be held, and how will members be connected?

Stage 5: Coordination and support

  • Who will be responsible for coordinating the OCoP?
  • What human, financial, and technological resources are being dedicated to the initiative?
  • How will the OCoP be sustained over time?
  • How will support be provided to participants?

Stage 6: Critical engagement

  • How are diverse ways of engagement, contributions, and reflections honored in the OCoP?
  • What are the expectations of members?
  • What pathways will members have for meaningful engagement with materials and one another?

Stage 7: Expanded impact

  • What opportunities will members have to learn and practice new skills?
  • What professional development activities will members lead or be engaged in?

Related content

Learning Module: Blended Course Design


Collaborative Activities for Online Learning 



Wright, A. C., Jardine, L., Anselmo, L., & Dyjur, P. (in press). An online community of practice framework for higher education. In K. Rainville, D. Title, and C. Descrochers (Eds.), Expanding the vision of faculty learning communities in higher education: Emerging opportunities for faculty to support and engage with each other. Information Age Publishers.