Participation in virtual academic communities of practice under the influence of technology acceptance and community factors

Nicolae Nistor, Walden University
Beate Baltes, Walden University
George Smeaton, Walden University
Mihai Dascălu
Dan Mihailă, University of Bucharest
Stefan Trăușan-Matu

Abstract

Participation in virtual communities of practice (vCoP) can be influenced at the same time by technology acceptance and by community factors. To overcome methodological issues connected with the analysis of these influences, learning analytics were applied. Based on a recent vCoP model, the collaborative dialogue comprising 4040 interventions in 1981 messages created by a vCoP located at a US American online university was automatically analyzed. The text-based asynchronous online discussions were scored using a cohesion-based participation and collaboration analysis. Additionally, a sample of N = 133 vCoP participants responded a technology acceptance survey. Thus, a combined research model including the vCoP model and an established technology acceptance model was verified. The results confirmed the vCoP model entirely, and the acceptance model only partially. As consequence for educational research, the CoP model was confirmed and extended to vCoP settings, while the acceptance model appears to need reconsideration. For academic practice, the study initiates the development of assessment tools fostering knowledge sharing through dialogue in vCoP. Also, it suggests how virtual classrooms can be extended to open spaces where value creation takes place through social learning. Learning analytics proved thus successful, provides information that impacts both theory and practice of technology-enhanced learning.