Can Discord Support a Community of Practice?
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Communities of practice are sometimes known by other names, such as interest groups or tech clubs. You may be part of a community of practice, even if you call it something different. According to Wenger-Trayner (2015), the characteristics that define a group as a community of practice are:
Domain: members of the group have practical expertise in a common domain.
Community: members actively share information, tips, and working knowledge to improve their practices.
Practice: members interact and contribute to a shared repertoire of expertise.
These three elements are what distinguish a community of practice from a fan club or social group. In the age of online collaboration, online or virtual communities of practice bring together practitioners from around the world. Discord can be a useful tool in cultivating and facilitating these groups.
Gathering Around a Domain
Discord is used by a great variety of groups to gather and communicate around shared interests. I have joined several servers focused on the domains of education and teaching. Discord serves as a virtual hub for members to meet others involved in similar work, far beyond a particular organization or geographical region. Finding and joining a server is just the first part of creating a community of practice in Discord.
Building a Community
The features of synchronous and asynchronous text chat, resource sharing via hyperlinks and uploaded files (documents, diagrams), and the ability to hold video and voice chat, make Discord wonderfully useful for building a community of practice. In one server dedicated to education, members actively share techniques for teaching online. There are conversations around solving problems with engagement of students in Zoom classrooms, and how to adapt lessons and activities for remote learning. Participants help each other develop ideas, research solutions, and support the community by contributing feedback. In addition to professional collaboration, Discord is helpful for building collegial friendships and peer relationships.
Discord server for educators to share expertise and practical tips.
One of the defining characteristics of a community of practice is the practical application of shared expertise. My daughter (16) asked me whether her favorite video game server would be considered a community of practice, and I think it could be.
The members use Discord as a place to meet, collaborate, and share ideas. When someone finds a new way to accomplish a goal, discovers a special feature, or has trouble with an obstacle, they share with the community. This usually starts as text chat, supplemented by graphics or screenshots of the game. Frequently, members will try to find and replicate the situation in their own games, and post their results and ideas for the group. As expertise is developed and shared, the community members adopt and implement the techniques into their own gameplay strategies.
What Do You Think?
Are you using Discord to communicate with friends or colleagues? Do you have an example of an online community of practice around a hobby or professional interest? I’d love to hear about it!