We all know that online groups can make collaboration possible between people. This is most effective when the group has a clear purpose and is supported by a committed facilitation team. In time the group will provide value to both the members and the wider stakeholders involved.
There are lots of different terms used to describe online groups and communities. They tend to use the catch all definition of “communities of practice”. Through our experience we know that this is not the case for all online groups, and that there is not a one size fits all approach for the different types of groups on the Knowledge Hub.
Here are some examples of the types of online groups you’ll find:
1. Communities of practice
Almost all online groups will be a network of individuals with mutual interests or problems. While a community of practice may not always have a specific end goal, it is usually aimed at supporting members on an ongoing basis and helping them progress in a particular area of work. Members usually join voluntarily and contribute as and when they need to. Membership will include those who share a passion, job role or project area. Having an online space brings them together to share good practice and ideas, explore ways of working, and identify common solutions to problems.
2. Training programmes
Creating groups specifically to support training courses and modules allows participants and facilitators to share and access course documentation, training materials and other useful resources. The library offers an organised file structure, the forum is a useful space for discussion and action learning and the wiki provides somewhere to index all course modules and materials. Having an online training space means you can also integrate webinars and video to provide and an all-round training course without the need for a physical space, which can work especially well for those who are geographically dispersed. It can also be successful for blended learning, providing an online space to keep in touch in between physical training course sessions.
3. User support groups
These online groups aim to connect people who use a specific product or service, such as a piece of software or a direct service to the public. In this trusted space members can share best practice, guidance documents, help and support material, as well as product/service improvement suggestions. Members can usually find tips and answers, and resolve any issues quickly by tapping into a network of experienced and new users, including those who created the product or deliver the service. Not only can this help to reduce customer support costs, it can also allow a more structured way of gathering innovative feedback ideas, as members become advocates for the product/service and begin to promote and support it.
4. Association groups
Not everyone who subscribes to your organisation or association is an engaged member. An online group allows the association to remain in constant touch with its members and listen to members’ needs. As well as offering communications tools to get your messages out to members, the group can help you drive engagement through surveys and research, collect ideas from your membership and build more direct relationships with members. When members are welcomed and encouraged to participate, it can lead to higher retention rates and they feel they really belong to a professional network for like-minded colleagues.
5. Working/steering groups
Setting up an online working/steering group allows those involved to become an established team quickly and easily. The terms of reference and reporting structure can be defined and agreed with everyone’s input using the wiki, and any issues can be readily discussed in the forum. Being an online working/steering group, members can receive regular and relevant updates on what content and information is being shared and discussed. As collaborative decisions can be made speedily, members no longer have to wait for the next face-to-face meeting to share helpful knowledge or raise any concerns. Using the library to store key documentation can also avoid members’ mailboxes getting swamped with content and reduces any confusion as a result of multiple document versions.
Organisations and members are using their Knowledge Hub groups in many different ways to meet their objectives. No matter what the online group type is, members often save time, money and effort by connecting with colleagues, keeping up to date with the latest thinking, and exploring issues together. Don’t miss out on being a member of groups that are relevant to you and find groups of interest. Can’t find the relevant group? Why not set up a group that works for you and your colleagues, and request a new group here?
Keep up to date with our blog for sneak previews and news on what’s changing on Knowledge Hub this year.
Missed our previous blogs about the changes coming soon?