The purpose of this study was to examine the role of an online workspace component of a community in the work of a community of practice. Much has been studied revealing the importance of communities of practice to organizations, project success, and knowledge management and some of these same successes hold true for virtual communities of practice. Study participants were 75 Education and Public Outreach community members of NASA's Science Mission Directorate Earth Forum. In this mixed methods study, online workspace metrics were used to track participation and a survey completed by 21 members was used to quantify participation. For a more detailed analysis, 15 community members (5 highly active users, 5 average users, and 5 infrequent users) selected based on survey responses, were interviewed. Finally, survey data was gathered from 7 online facilitators to understand their role in the community. Data collected from these 21 community members and 5 facilitating members suggest that highly active users (logging into the workspace daily), were more likely to have transformative experiences, co-create knowledge, feel ownership of community knowledge, have extended opportunities for community exchange, and find new forms of evaluation. Average users shared some similar characteristics with both the highly active members and infrequent users, representing a group in transition as they become more engaged and active in the online workspace. Inactive users viewed the workspace as having little value, being difficult to navigate, being mainly for gaining basic information about events and community news, and as another demand on their time. Results show the online workspace component of the Earth Science Education and Outreach Forum is playing an important and emerging role for this community by supporting knowledge building and knowledge sharing, and growing in value for those that utilizing it more frequently. The evidence suggests that with increased participation or "usage" comes increased value to the participant and the organization. This research illustrates the possible change in mindset held by participating community members when it comes to the nature of co-location. Additionally, it may be of particular importance in exploring changes in the community members' feelings of connection and belonging.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technology and leadership; Communities of practice; Knowledge management; Electronic discussion groups

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Riel, Margaret;