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J Health Organ Manag. 2014;28(4):477-94.

Introducing a multimedia course to enhance health professionals' skills to facilitate communities of practice.



Scholarship about communities of practice (COP) is uncovering evidence that interactivity between community members contributes to improvement in practice. Leadership and facilitation are crucial elements of successful COP implementation. The purpose of this paper is to describe an innovative COP facilitator's course and report on the experiences of participants in the first course.


In response to this need and emerging evidence, an on-line COP facilitator's course was developed and implemented in Alberta, Canada, in 2011. This course included a home-based COP practicum, introductory face-to-face session, an on-line discussion board moderated by faculty and on-line learning modules. Evaluation of the course was formalized in a qualitative study incorporating content analysis of postings, semi-structured interviews of successful participants and narrative responses to questions in a post course survey.


A total of 15 of 22 participants perceived they acquired basic knowledge about community facilitation by completing the self-learning modules and assignments. Many did not establish home-based COP and only partially participated in the interactive components of the course. Six participants successfully completed the course by establishing home-based COP and actively participating in the social and interactive components of the course. They perceived they met course objectives and greatly benefited from participation in the course, in particular when they pushed themselves to facilitate in new and different ways, and when they were actively engaged with their home-based COP where they could practice and receive feedback.


While the main reasons why participants dropped out or failed to complete all course components were reported, the experiences and perceptions of six participants who successfully completed all course components form the major part of the evaluation of the course and hence introduce bias. A more in depth analysis of why learners are reluctant to engage in participatory learning could be the focus of further studies.


The following key recommendations emerged in the study alongside recommendations for further study of best practices in supporting COP facilitation. First, a formal interview before enrollment into the COP facilitator's course is recommended to reinforce the comprehensiveness, time commitment and the practical applications intended within the course. Second, methods of "aggressive facilitation" with skilled COP facilitators can best model facilitation to those involved in the course. Third, supporting course participants to trial out a diversity of community facilitation skills in the safety of the course is crucial to success.


The collaboration, networking and interactivity of interdisciplinary health care workers is of tremendous consequence to health outcomes and a vital concern to practitioners and administrators. Little is currently understood of the leadership and facilitation of the COP models and these discoveries lend a timely contribution to the field.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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