Using Social Networks and Communities of Practice to Promote Staff Collaboration in Higher Education

  • Niall CorcoranEmail author
  • Aidan Duane
Part of the Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning book series (IAKM, volume 8)


A lack of community at the heart of higher education institutions (HEIs) has led to a breakdown of collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst staff. There are a number of contributory factors, including the culture and structure of these organizations, and a divide between academic and other staff. The use of community-based knowledge management (KM) techniques, such as communities of practice (CoP), appears to have some potential in addressing this problem, and particularly when coupled with enterprise social networks (ESN) to create online communities. A case study of the implementation of an ESN and virtual CoP (vCoP) in a public HEI in Ireland is presented. The project involved an action research (AR) study conducted over a 12-month period and used qualitative data from focus groups and interviews to investigate a number of themes based on a conceptual model. The findings indicate that the barriers to staff participation are influenced by the prevalent organizational structure and culture, and a divide between faculty and other staff. However, individual benefits that accrue may influence greater participation, and organizational benefits that accrue may influence organizational strategies that drive change in structure and culture to promote the development of the knowledge sharing environment. A number of strategies for practice and specific tactical approaches for organizations to use are presented. In general, HEIs need to move towards a transformational culture for staff to be suitably motivated to participate in online communities and share knowledge freely.


Knowledge management Communities of practice Enterprise social networks Action research 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Information TechnologyLimerick Institute of TechnologyLimerickIreland
  2. 2.School of BusinessWaterford Institute of TechnologyWaterfordIreland

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