International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 10-12th April 2006
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Four years on: a longitudinal study assessing the impact of membership of a virtual community of practice

Barbara Allan (1), Bob Hunter (2) and Dina Lewis (3)
University of Hull (1) and (3) University of Birmingham (2)


This paper explores the long term impact of a virtual learning community (VLC) from the perspective of community members and their employing organization. It argues that membership potentially has a significant impact on individual identities and careers, and that managed communities provide an important means for strategic workforce development. The study evaluates the impact of membership of a VLC over a four year period within the context of the theoretical frameworks of communities of practice and identity theory. The concept of boundary crossing is also explored in relation to VLCs. The paper considers the benefits to host organisations in supporting structured VLCs as a means of enabling workforce development and supporting change and innovation.


Virtual learning community, workforce development, boundary crossing, professional identity, comfort zones

Full Paper - .pdf

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Keynote Speakers

Peter Goodyear, University of Sydney

Ronghuai Huang,

Beijing Normal University

Vera A. Solis, Universidad Centroamericana

Lawrence Hamburg, Higher Education Academy

Sten Ludvigsen, Intermedia, Oslo

Lancaster University


Higher Education Academy

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