As Connect and Inspire: Online Communities of Practice in Education makes clear, launching a successful online community of practice is much more than a technology project and requires a thoughtful strategy that considers the community’s goals, incentives, roles, content, and many other nontechnological criteria. That said, the technology must support the types of valuable interactions that will make participation worthwhile for community members. Because there are dozens of collaboration platforms and tools, each with different permutations of features, choosing the configuration can be overwhelming. Countless collaboration initiatives have failed after extensive requirement-gathering and platform-evaluation efforts that focused on technology—at the expense of goal-setting and planning for the activities the technology needed to support. It is far too easy for the technology component of a collaboration project to take on a life of its own and miss the big picture. The solution is to engage in some careful planning but also start small, focusing on a narrow audience and set of features. We explain this approach in more detail in what follows.
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