Utilising an innovative implementation of established Cloud Technologies, we have created a number of collaborative university strategies and policies that have since been put into action through a network of Communities of Practice (CoP).
The ‘University Conversation’ is a cloud-technology mediated collaboration methodology, which has so far been used to harvest the collective insight of hundreds of academics and students, with the aim of creating new university policy. Inspired by the taxonomy of collaborative writing (Lowry et al., 2004), a modified hybrid of ‘group-single author’ and ‘horizontal-division’ writing was used to harvest the initial discussion and iteratively edit a network of documents towards a final state suitable for submission as university policy. The result is a methodology for harvesting synchronous discussion in small groups, which can then be opened up for asynchronous comment.
This project aims to foster the development of a series of ‘significant networks’ (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009) through the generation of University-wide communities of practice (Wenger, 1999). The CoPs are self-sustaining entities whose members share similar enhancement goals with the aim of formulating material to be shared with the University.
The outcome of this work has been the creation of a completely new Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy and an accompanying Assessment Enhancement Policy both of which have the endorsement of the University community in addition to the traditional Committee approvals.
This initiative demonstrates the potential of cloud technology to open communicative pathways between the University and the ‘significant networks’ (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009) that exist at departmental level. It also demonstrates the power of creating institutional networks of communities of practice.
We will overview the collaborative methodologies that led to the creation of the network of Communities of Practice and the open institutional strategies and policy that is now embedded into practice at this University. The opportunities and challenges of our initiatives will be discussed and we will argue that real innovation arises organically from the ground level in an institution, but requires a dynamic but robust substrate to allow it to fully embed and to remain sustainable.
Lowry, P.B., Curtis, A. and Lowry, M.R. (2004) ‘Building a taxonomy and nomenclature of collaborative writing to improve interdisciplinary research and practice’, International Journal of Business Communication, 41(1), pp. 66–99.
Roxå, T. and Mårtensson, K. (2009) ‘Significant conversations and significant networks – exploring the backstage of the teaching arena’, Studies in Higher Education, 34(5), pp. 547-559.
Surowiecki, J. (2005) The Wisdom of Crowds. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group,
Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice. Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press