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Communities of practice in institutions of higher learning : a descriptive study of the humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Zululand.

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Knowledge is a key resource. It enables individuals and organisations to perform through social interactions. New knowledge is created and shared that gives an organisation the edge to succeed in a highly complex and demanding world. Higher education institutions need to value and nurture the knowledge of academic staff and support and encourage social interactions that exist. One way of doing this is through the utilization of communities of practice. Communities of practice may improve performance of an organization and encourage and facilitate learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing. The purpose of this study was to establish the extent to which communities of practice are defined and utilised within higher education institutions to foster learning and facilitate the sharing of knowledge among academic staff, in order to advance the scholarship of teaching and research in the humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Zululand. The study intended to establish how communities of practice were understood, the nature of communities of practice and their formation, factors that support or inhibit the formation of communities of practice and the ways in which communities of practice can be cultivated and fostered within higher education institutions. Questionnaires, focus groups and semi-structured interviews were used to collect data. The study found that most academics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and University of Zululand were involved in communities of practice and had an understanding of communities of practice. The study also established that both institutions did not have a policy on communities of practice. The major problems facing the academics at UKZN and Unizul were that they had very heavy workloads, family responsibilities, lacked support from the institution, time constraints, the absence of policy on communities of practice and organizational culture (see Table 6).


Thesis (M.I.S.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2007.


Theses--Library and information science., Knowledge management., Organisational learning.