News and Commentary Lessons Learned in Creating an Online Community of Practice

Educators are the vehicle for learning, yet we spend little dedicated time developing our own skills, knowledge, and performance. Even when we do take the time, the new skills we learn often deteriorate without consistent practice or feedback.

We know that educators can sustain skills and continue to improve if we have a continuous way to:

  1. conveniently engage in deliberate practice
  2. receive feedback
  3. reflectively practice the very things that we teach
  4. have a community of practice partners and expert coaches.

We set out to build an interprofessional online community of practice that would give health professions educators a forum to do just that.

A Learning Community Approach

We envisioned a community of new and old friends and colleagues who could engage in conversations and activities that focus on continuous self-improvement as a means to helping others improve.

We created and piloted the online “CMS Virtual Campus: An Interprofessional Community of Practice” with 100 interprofessional (simulation and non-simulation) health professions educators.

Educators were able to develop and reinforce skills in reflective practice giving and receiving feedback, debriefing, and communicating effectively, among other topics at their convenience. Activities ranged from book clubs to advice columns, and from discussion forums to online reunions. We used podcasts, videos, blogs and online discussions to deliver the content. Educators received peer and mentor support, including through scheduled feedback sessions and small group activities that involved role playing and simulated situations. The varying modules (activities and courses) were all structured to model interprofessional learning.

Our hope was that those who participated in such a community would be able to develop a deeper understanding for IPE and be able to use their enhanced knowledge and skills to help other faculty and learners at all stages.

What We Learned

The pilot helped us understand in depth the needs of users, ways to address them, and ways to offer the things that we found to be effective to all health profession educators. We’ve captured our findings in this report which we hope offers a guide to others who are interested in building their own virtual community of practice.

It also surfaced the importance of developing educators’ skills in having effective feedback conversations. Feedback is a source of pain for all interprofessional educators. The level of interest in our Feedback Course Pilot was astounding: 100 learners were invited for 40 seats. Within one week, 60 expressed interest of taking the course (6 hours a week for 5 weeks), 20 of which we wait-listed. The online attendance rate was 98%. The participants reported completing 90% of the assigned homework. The most frequently reported reason for dedicating personal time, attending the course, and completing assignments was interest in gaining the skills to be better at understanding and having feedback conversations. We have now made our Feedback Course widely available:

We also offer to you our lessons learned in this full report:

In this report, we tell our story of what we did and what we learned in the process including lessons learned in: needs assessments, user experience, online engagement, feedback conversations, business model testing, communities of practice, project purpose, and innovation and new project management.

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