Online help-seeking in communities of practice: Modeling the acceptance of conceptual artifacts

Nicolae Nistor, Walden University
Matthias Werner
Silke Schworm


Interactive online help systems are considered to be a fruitful supplement to traditional IT helpdesks, which are often overloaded. They often comprise user-generated FAQ collections playing the role of technology-based conceptual artifacts. Two main questions arise: how the conceptual artifacts should be used, and which factors influence their acceptance in a community of practice (CoP). Firstly, this paper offers a theoretical frame and a usage scenario for technology-based conceptual artifacts against the theoretical background of the academic help-seeking and CoP approach. Each of the two approaches is extensively covered by psychological and educational research literature, however their combination is not yet sufficiently investigated. Secondly, the paper proposes a research model explaining the acceptance of conceptual artifacts. The model includes users' expectations toward the artifact, perceived social influence and users' roles in the CoP as predictors of artifact use intention and actual usage. A correlational study conducted in an academic software users' CoP and involving structural equations modeling validates the model, suggesting thus a research line that is worth further pursuing. For educational practice, the study suggests three ways of supporting knowledge sharing in CoPs, i.e. use of technology-based conceptual artifacts, roles and division of labor, and purposeful communication in CoPs.