What is a Community of Practice?

Photo of CBI participants talking at a round table while enjoying something to drink

CoPs are groups of people who share a common concern in their practice and interact regularly to improve their practice. CoPs identify problems, goals, and resources; assess change; and monitor and adjust plans and activities.

Team members in the AccessCollege project created CoPs on their own campuses and encouraged partner schools to do the same. Some meet in person; some meet online or by telephone; others meet in multiple ways. As with any CoP, each has chosen:

  1. a domain of interest that is related to the goals of AccessCollege (e.g., professional development of faculty, information technology policies and procedures, campus-wide efforts to promote universal design of courses and services);
  2. a group of people, including practitioners interested in furthering accessibility policy and practice within the CoP domain, sharing perspectives and expertise, identifying promoters and inhibitors of change, setting goals, and identifying projects; and
  3. practices undertaken to further goals identified by CoP members (Wenger, 1998).

CoPs host Capacity-Building Institutes, which draw in other members of on- and off-campus stakeholder groups to identify barriers for people with disabilities and strategies for promoting the universal design of courses and services on campus. Synthesis of input from CBIs further informs CoPs as members work toward campus improvements.