Communities of Practice in an Arabic Culture: Wenger's Model and the United Arab Emirates Implications for Online Learning


With the advent of globalization and the proliferation of online learning, the creation of culturally sensitive online learning environments takes on increasing importance. Online education provides new opportunities for learners from different cultural backgrounds to come together, learn, expand their knowledge, share ideas, and develop passion for their vocation. Emerging models of how communities work, such as Communities of Practice (CoPs) are being increasingly used to understand how online communities might grow and develop. Schwen & Hara (2003) outline 4 stages of design necessary to ensure that CoPs are properly designed for an online environment: phase 1) Possible Design Interventions, phase 2) Analysis, phase 3) Design and, phase 4) Evaluation and Revision. Phase 1 and phase 2 of this design model are considered in this study, in light of Etienne Wenger’s (2002) elements of a Community of Practice: domain, community and practice. These elements are considered in order to gauge the degree to which they can be applied in an Arab educational culture. The investigation focuses on College-level education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the government-supported Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) system. By analyzing faculty perceptions related to the students’ propensity to adopt Community of Practice elements into their educational culture, we can provide guidance for the design of online learning that supports a cross-cultural Community of Practice, specifically as it relates to phase 1 and phase 2 of Schwen and Hara’s design structure.

KEYWORDS: Globalization, Proliferation, Online Learning, Community of Practice