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SUNY Online Community of Practice

According to anthropologist Etienne Wenger, a community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a craft or a profession. A community of practice is a group of individuals all of whom sit on a continuum from novice to master with a shared affinity for, and expertise in, a particular domain/field, who are committed to sharing what they know about their domain and interested in learning more themselves, via mentoring, networking, and engaging in community activities and with community members for professional development and improvement.

This apprenticeship model has been at the foundation of the community of online teaching and learning practitioners for the past 25 years. The SUNY Online Community of Online Practitioners is community of dedicated online teaching practitioners that includes online instructional designers, developers, technologists, faculty, librarians, administrators, etc., all interested in improving what we know about how people teach and learn well online.

This community was born out of a need and specific context, it evolved over time, and must evolve to be relevant and to continue to provide value to the community it serves.


  • A community has to have something for everyone in every role from novice to master… they need to be able to see themselves and others like themselves represented in the community and that there is a place for them. We have codified membership into a number of roles: The SUNY Online Teaching Fellow roles  help us target areas of interest.
  • A community includes members beyond its own institution/program/department to add a diversity of perspectives/knowledge/contexts, that serve to strengthen the community.


Model and lead initially, share leadership to encourage engagement.

  • Model
      • Authentic heart, genuine passion.
      • TRUST and a shared sense of belonging.
      • Generosity and willingness to share what you know for the good of the community.
  • Communicate
      • Shared passion, values, interests, purpose.
      • Positive non-irritating communications.
      • Relevant, timely, updated content – regularly.
      • Rules – acceptable use policies, community guidelines – tolerance, respect.
  • Represent
      • A continuum of expertise is represented in the community from novice to rock star.
      • Leadership with credibility, skills, and willingness – it also helps to have heart, charm, personality, and a strong point of view = passion.
  • Provide 
      • Value.
      • A digital platform/home for communications, networking, interaction and ways to contribute and a place to talk – interact. Create multiple opportunities for varied levels of engagement (for both consumers and providers of community content).
      • Mechanisms to recognize and showcase community members and their work.
      • Opportunities for mentoring – sharing skills / expertise.
      • Process for continuous improvement with community input.


Develop multiple ways to engage

  • A signature feature of the SUNY Online Teaching community of practice is the formal codification of the informal roles that previously made up the community membership in the form of SUNY Online Teaching Fellows. This is a formal recognition of roles played by online practitioners in our community of online practitioners. See:

  1. Interested in online-enabled education: Faculty member or instructional designer who has no or light experience In online education. Interested in learning more about effective online teaching practices and about the design of effective online teaching and learning environments.
  2. Experienced online Practitioner: online practitioners who have training and  experience in teaching online or in helping to support effective teaching and learning environments.
  3. Expert ID: Online Faculty member or professional instructional designer who has certification and expertise in creating effective online teaching and learning environments. Willing and able to formally serve as an online instructional designer within SUNY.
  4. Exemplar coach and mentor: Online Faculty member who demonstrates exemplary online teaching practices and the ability to cultivate effective, engaging teaching and learning environments. Willing to dedicate time to coach and mentor others.
  5. Innovator and or researcher: Online Faculty member engaged in scholarly work on how people teach and learn in technology-mediated environments, and/or engaged in innovation utilizing practices or technologies that push the boundaries of online education.
  6. Friend of SUNY: Anyone outside of SUNY interested in joining a community interested in online teaching and learning to share, network, collaborate. Value in the perspectives from other contexts/institutions.



  • We are using badges as a framework to recognize, support, cultivate, and incentivize certain behaviors and as a means to leverage the community itself to assist us in scaling activities and initiatives. We are using Badging for various purposes
  1. Membership badges recognize role in the community of online practitioners.
  2. Community engagement badges recognize efforts to share and network within our community of practice.
  3. Competency Development badges acknowledge those who engaged in professional development programs and can provide evidence of their accomplishments and learning.
  4. Social Media badges acknowledge efforts to share knowledge or expertise via social media.
  5. Events badges commemorate participation in SUNY Online events.
  6. Participation badges endorse contributions and attendance at community activities and events.
  7. Awards badges recognize community members honored through the SUNY Online Effective Practices awards, Exemplary Online Courses, and Online Teaching Ambassadors programs.
  8. Certify and authorize individuals and campuses to train and award badges on our behalf.

Best practices

  1. Open the community to membership beyond your individual group/organization/departments/institution.
  2. Recognize/showcase members.
  3. Create relevant value/fresh new content regularly.
  4. Focus on what the community needs.
  5. Model and lead initially, share leadership to encourage engagement.
  6. Provide rules.
  7. Provide mechanisms to both give and get from the community for community members.

List of ways to connect and engage in our community of practice.

Invitation to anyone interested: 



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