cross-organizational model [ level-3 ]

SET (technology) component

Findings (themes)


Design Guidelines

Agreement/disagreement with bibliography

Practical intervention examples


WDD process model

Digital CoPs Framework


Integrate member-preferred social networks (SN), field-specific creativity-support tools (CSTs), generic productivity, and online showcasing tools in the CoP technology configuration

  • Technology configuration design framework (E. Wenger et al., 2009)
  • Identify effective design principles for digital platforms supporting online communities (Spagnoletti et al., 2015)
  • Attention to sociotechnical design problems & solutions (De Moor, 2015)
  • Technical & visual design communication tools (L. Dym et al., 2005)
  • Social media as the means to increase member communication & connection (Chou & Frank, 2018)
  • Choose an all-encompassing platform to serve at the baseline of the CoP or – given the availability of technical expertise – combine & integrate different tools through trusted APIs to accommodate all practice needs of the community

Suggested software[1]:

Tribe, Exoplatform, Hivebrite, Samepage, Zoho, WordPress



Technical & Design-oriented communication: practical & socio-emotional considerations


Usability issues

Power asymmetries


Integrate effective technical Q&A interface capabilities like code-snippet sharing, execution, & debugging, within the social CoP platform

  • Resistive agency (Novakovich et al., 2017)
  • Effective technical Q&A models (Mamykina et al., 2011; D. Yang et al., 2016)
  • Integrate open-source Q&A platforms with technical communication interface capabilities, as the ones in:
    Askbot, question2answer, Stack Overflow
  • Alternatively aim for proprietary solutions like:
    Stack-Overflow “Teams” knowledgebase, or Piazza
  • Quantitative data: scores & analytics for posts, replies, technical resolves, shares, likes, stars (peer voting), resulting statuses (i.e. expert, junior expert/geek, super geek etc.)

Lack of identification

Power asymmetries


Integrate automatic or manual gamification features in the social CoP platform to promote student interest & engagement in the practice

  • High versus normal-to-low-competence participation & contribution in CoPs (Roberts, 2006; Sommet et al., 2015; Waycott et al., 2017)
  • Lack of identification (Probst & Borzillo, 2008)
  • Disparities of competence as power (Cundill et al., 2015; Farnsworth et al., 2016; E. Wenger, 2010c)
  • Motivate members to follow up with online/offline community-driven activities & perform certain actions: i.e. set challenges, steer debates, collect marks for key actions like post, reply, like, stars, & share through analytics
  • Summarize analytics in score-boards
  • Derive member statuses based on that (i.e. expert, junior expert/geek, super geek etc.)

Lack of technical writing skills

Power asymmetries


Guide learners to make use of appropriate language for effective technical communication

  • Barriers in technical Q&A language, community member marginalization (Frith, 2014; Mamykina et al., 2011; Smith IV et al., 2020)
  • Development of professional social media skills (Novakovich et al., 2017)
  • Introduce quick class-based exercises which expect student teams to form technical or generic-type queries to get help from others and resolve them. Student teams can present their queries to the class
  • The instructor or facilitator can deliver quick lectures or provide learning resources for the development of technical & generic communication skills
  • Peers can evaluate these based on a) their compliance with heuristics, b) their overall communicative ability
  • They can then provide suggestions for improvement
  • Peer & instructor assessment and reviews of students’ technical posts
  • Instructor assessment of students’ reviews of their peers’ technical posts

Practical (usability) issues

Socio-emotional issues

Power asymmetries







Support modular visibility to accommodate various ad-hoc CoP interactions, both from the initiator & the target member perspectives

Provide on-demand activity-driven permissions

Provide on-demand role-specific permissions

  • Private & Public modes of participation (Gaillard & Rajic, 2014; E. Wenger et al., 2002a)
  • Polarities: a) rhythms: togetherness & separation, b) interactions: participation & reification), c) identities: individual & group (E. Wenger et al., 2009)
  • Private versus public access (Khalid & Strange, 2016)
  • Virtual panopticon, lack of authorial identity (Brass & Mecoli, 2011; Dennen, 2016; Waycott et al., 2017)
  • Criticism (Baek & Barab, 2005)
  • Unhelpful comparisons’ (Crossouard & Pryor, 2008)
  • Workspace awareness, multi-role permission, multi-channel communication, technology vs face-to-face communication, affective concerns in HCI (Dillenbourg et al., 2009; Gutwin et al., 1996; Hassenzahl, 2004; Heuer & Stein, 2019; Sanches et al., 2019; Spagnoletti et al., 2015; Stephanidis et al., 2019; Suthers & Hundhausen, 2003)
  • Visual & navigational discontinuity (E. Wenger et al., 2009)
  • Introduce visual collaboration software (i.e. Conceptboard, Groupboard) which allow easy integration with external tools that the community uses daily (i.e. document management, project management, communication, wikis, video conferencing & social networking tools)
  • These should provide public, semi-private or private community interactions

Suggested software:

Tribe, eXo Platform, Samepage, Zoho, WordPress, Stack Overflow “Teams” KB, Askbot, Question2answer, Conceptboard, Groupboard, Openboard, Figma, Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Confluence, Slack, Trello, Infolio, Open Project

  • Review of local-to-local, local-to-global CoP activity through:
  • Software log / history for both initiator & responder efforts
  • Emails, chat activity, video-conferencing sessions, number of artifacts created / modified in shared space, time-on-task, visitation frequency, activity duration
  • Use of AI tools to monitor & analyze collaborative workflows: text analytics to generate quantitative results & qualitative insights on students’ understanding, reasoning, & knowledge or collaborative gaps

Visual design-oriented interactions


Lack of authorial ownership

Lack of workspace awareness

Attention disruption




Aim to enhance workspace awareness in terms of peers’ identity, position & activity in visual CST workspaces

Integrate various channels for multimodal communication in visual CST workspaces

If the tool’s interface does not natively support workspace awareness clues (i.e. animated peer cursors, labels, modularized visibility modes), members could for instance manually:

  • use color-coding (i.e. background-color an area or canvas, or use color framing around visual artifacts)
  • employ specific icons and labels to signify a ‘state-of-edit’ & the author’s identity

The SE5 intervention examples are also applicable here (SE7)




Difficulty in handling multiple different tools


Enable interoperability between CSTs, generic productivity, SNs, & other tools included in the CoP’s technology configuration

  • Integration through functional interoperability & data portability in agreement with current movements (Cyphers & O’brien, n.d.; ICO, n.d.; MIT, n.d.; W3C, 2017; E. Wenger et al., 2009)
  • Interoperability is not a ‘technological quick fix” (De Moor, 2015)
  • Avoid practice intangibility (Probst & Borzillo, 2008)

Employ technical expertise (i.e. IT staff) to build on existing platforms’ interface provisions to enhance functionality & enable data portability through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These are interfaces that allow developers to interact with another software or a service

SOCIAL component

Findings (themes)


Design Guidelines

Agreement/disagreement with bibliography

Practical intervention examples



Power relations: trust, competition & accountability

Local-to-local power asymmetries

Mistrust, competition

Strong core group

Strong one-to-one relationships

Local-to-global power asymmetries



Aim for even distribution of power through the balance of trust, competition & accountability in the CoP

Empower external CoP members with compound and in-depth information on their purpose and role, as well as the other members in the practice

  • Power imbalances are characteristic of canonical, financed & managed CoPs (Cundill et al., 2015; Fox, 2000b; Roberts, 2006)
  • Active behavior originates from individuals who are empowered, who feel that they are able to enact change and influence others (Broom, 2015)
  • Social learning-based theorization of power (Farnsworth et al., 2016)
  • Cognitive authority & power (Addelson, 1983)
  • Power as knowledge & competence (Aljuwaiber, 2016; Booth & Kellogg, 2015; Stroupe, 2014)
  • Strong core group of participation – peripheral majority (E. Wenger et al., 2002a)
  • All participation is peripheral (Boylan, 2010)
  • (SO1) Generic guideline covering guidelines SO3-SO8 (see below)
  • Instructor review & evaluation of student-generated documents (referred to in SO2 intervention on the left) in terms of timekeeping, information accuracy, clarity, sufficiency, coherence, & communicative capability.
  • (SO2) Prepare & share with external CoP members: documentation that includes a detailed account of projects & collaborative activities between students & them. Some of these documents may also be the students’ responsibility to produce:
  • full project briefs, requirements, expected deliverable deadlines, & academic outcomes (based on lesson plan) (students’ responsibility),
  • specific feedback foci (i.e. visual, technical, aesthetic, or other aspects of work) (instructor’s responsibility),
  • practical information (i.e. word range/limit, feedback contributors per deliverable, suggested communication frequencies, tools) (students’ responsibility),
  • contextual information (i.e. team structure & the individual roles & responsibilities of team members) (students’ responsibility)

Interpersonal (peer trust)


Lack of identification

Mistrust, competition

Rich boundary ‘spill-overs’



Schedule regular work crits with students for constructive peer reviews, commencing early on in the project cycle

Assign different industry projects & clients to different CoP teams, ensuring that they require same-level subject knowledge, creative adeptness & technical competence

  • Avoid dishonest intentions (Chang et al., 2008)
  • Brokering (E. Wenger, 1998)
  • Cross-pollination” of work (Williams, 2018)
  • Develop open dialogue (Chang et al., 2008)
  • Make student-thinking public, provide scaffolding, confront misconceptions, enhance metacognition, encourage technically-sound assessment (Binkley et al., 2012)
  • ‘Thinking together’ (Pyrko et al., 2017)
  • Cross-boundary insights & prospects for learning (E. Wenger, 2010c)
  • Sharing of opinions & free expression (Macià & García, 2016)
  • (SO3) Organize systematic class-based (preferably) crits on the teams’ deliverables, based on – for instance – a biweekly plan or on the scheduled deliverables
  • The rest of the teams should be called to contribute their structured feedback – either in verbal or in written form
  • Integrate a) interim student team presentations, b) peer critique & reviews into the academic formative assessment plan, c) instructor assessments of the sum of peer reviews produced at the end of the semester
  • Set clear and equal assessment criteria with respective grades across all team projects
  • (SO4) Whether institute-coordinated (i.e. strategic industry-exchange scheme) or faculty-driven, this initiative should aim for the timely (i.e. 30-days in advance) search and agreement for different industrial partners & projects, as the academic assignments for student teams
  • Aim to recruit local businesses, start-ups, non-profit organizations etc.
  • Normalize project brief requirements & outcomes across teams, guided by the course’s academic objectives

Intrapersonal trust (self-efficacy)

Lack of interpersonal trust (mistrust)

Lack of intrapersonal trust (self-efficacy)

More face-to-face interactions

Contributive collective intentions



Aim for mixed-competence teams to form the CoP’s working subgroups

Aim for community-wide face-to-face interaction early on & throughout the life of the CoP in order to boost online participation

  • Vicarious experiences may undermine teamwork (Alberola et al., 2016; Bandura et al., 1999)
  • One-sided (high/low) accumulation of competence (Rubin, 2003)
  • Creating diverse teams, valuing inclusion & collaboration, empowering lower-attainment students (Boaler, 2006; Pociask et al., 2017; Tereshchenko et al., 2019)
  • Personality-type measures (Shen et al., 2007)
  • Physical proximity enhances trust (Aljuwaiber, 2016; Booth & Kellogg, 2015; Nilsson, 2019)
  • Face-to-face learning activities are critical elements (Trust & Horrocks, 2017)
  • Brokering (E. Wenger, 1998)
  • (SO5) Team compositions should reflect an equal distribution of members’ competence & other factors such as interests, skills, previous performance, personality, group-work attitudes, learning styles, prior work experience.
  • (SO6) Aim to organize at least one community-wide introductory meeting, at the start of the module/course
  • Various members can provide brief talks on their educational background, experience, work, & role in the CoP.
  • Follow up with regular events throughout the course, whenever the academic schedule allows for hosting invited experts for more in-depth talks, short workshops, or on-location visits to their work practice (where feasible).
  • Ensure that reified forms of this knowledge (i.e. public profiles, work portfolios, recorded talks & discussions, workshop sessions) are stored & easily accessed by CoP members.
  • Possibly employ the use of AI tools for team formation or other personality/psychological typing tools (i.e. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI))
  • Instructor observation and evaluation of student participation in expert-driven discussions
  • Integrate students’ outcomes (i.e. collective processes & resulting artifacts) from expert workshop sessions, in the (formative) assessment plan


Public exposure

Lack of accountability in the CoP’s SN platform

Forgetting or overlooking the purpose & actionable obligations



Limit the size of the CoP to balance member accountability

Highlight the intended responsibilities of each CoP role at the start & regularly throughout the life of the CoP

  • Accountability equates degrees of competence, power & trust, engagement in blended CoPs (Nilsson, 2019; Roberts, 2006; E. Wenger, 1998)
  • Virtual panopticon, lack of authorial identity (Brass & Mecoli, 2011; Dennen, 2016; Waycott et al., 2017)
  • Criticism (Baek & Barab, 2005)
  • Unhelpful comparisons’ (Crossouard & Pryor, 2008)
  • Clear objectives provide members with responsibilities & motivate them to contribute more actively (Borzillo, 2017)
  • (SO7) Academic membership: aim for a CoP structure which includes the students of the module/course, the instructor(s), & floating facilitator(s) (where applicable).
  • Industrial membership: use a ratio of 1 or 2 externals-per-student-team (i.e. alumni & expert mentors), to manage – but not overwhelm both ends with – the feedback & evaluation workload.
  • (SO8) Prepare a systematic schedule (table) of the members’ routine tasks for complying with & evaluating important project milestones (i.e. project deliverables)
  • If this table becomes too lengthy & confusing:
    • provide an initial simplified summary for students & external stakeholders alike
    • Then split this into the individual phases of the project cycle (and semester) & provide more detailed information for each one
    • Hand this to the CoP members at appropriate timings, i.e. at the end of each milestone and beginning of the next one (progressive disclosure)
  • Informal team-based or individual (one-to-one) observation and evaluation meetings as part of formative academic assessment
  • Peer reviews (marks & comments) of teammates’ contribution at predefined project milestones

EPISTEMIC component

Findings (themes)


Design Guidelines

Links to bibliography

Practical intervention examples




Time-based disparities between internal & external CoP members

Need for timely and collective planning, guided by visual diagrams, & ample piloting time

Meaningful learning due to synchronized curriculum & CoP-based activities





Invite community-wide participation for the design of the learning ecology prior to its enactment

Introduce visual representations to simplify the epistemic design and clarify its practical implications early on in the life of the CoP

Allow for sufficient time to pilot-test the epistemic design prior to the commencement of critical CoP-based learning practices

Plan the academic curriculum to coincide – thematically & temporally – with CoP-based activities

  • Research to identify the specific epistemic structures to be orchestrated, so as to facilitate learning. Also, strategic time-management for the effective functioning of CoPs (Cundill et al., 2015; S. Smith & Smith, 2017; Spagnoletti et al., 2015)
  • Base learning design on collective experiences (E. Wenger et al., 2002a)
  • ACAD: employ collective analysis of needs & planning of the ‘chain of operations’, use visualizations versus abstract generalizations (P. Goodyear & Carvalho, 2016)
  • Identify & moderate disparities between CoP-driven & traditional academic practices (Morton, 2012)
  • Codified knowledge (through academic study) vs tacit knowledge (through ‘learning by doing’) (Amin & Roberts, 2008)
  • Focus on ‘how’ students transform information into usable knowledge (Hagstrom, 2006)
  • (EP1) Collect & analyze the needs, limitations & suggestions of various CoP stakeholders via online/offline questionnaires, group meetings, interviews & informal discussions prior to the enactment of CoP-based learning activities.
  • Run participatory design sessions with representatives of each member role, to derive suggestions & best practices for the CoP’s epistemic design
  • (EP2) Use sketching & diagramming methods to help brainstorm & clarify the ‘mechanics’ of the epistemic design
    • Diagramming & Mindmapping software: Lucid Chart, Greatly, Coggle, Miro, MindMaster
  • (EP3) Allocate a period of time for faculty, students, & external members, to communicate & coordinate the ‘ways of working’ (public / private, synchronous /asynchronous) prior to CoP-based learning
  • (EP4) Plan the syllabus & class-based activities (i.e. exercises) to thematically coincide with (or precede) the scheduled cop-based outputs (i.e. project deliverables for mentors, interim industrial presentations etc.)
  • At certain thematic units in the syllabus, ask students in class to discuss the CoP-related project issues they encountered (i.e. the technical feedback, or new client requests that relate to the specific unit), in order to resolve them with the help of peers, or reflect on the teams’ counteractions collectively.
  • Integrate the initial contribution of students’ reporting of their needs, suggestions, diagrams & participatory design outcomes in the (formative) academic assessment plan
  • Repeat the above with students’ engagement in and activity levels during the piloting period


Positive outcomes from external formative assessment

Non reciprocal student behavior in feedback processes

Intense negotiations of meaning, reflective & self-regulatory episodes, tension in feedback processing, grounding




Aim for regular feedback & evaluation of student work from expert CoP members to enrich the academic feedback process

Proactively negotiate the focus, amount & tone of feedback with external CoP members

Articulate comments appropriately to encourage reciprocal feedback activity in CoP-wide settings

  • Focus on the role, effectiveness and challenges of feedback in ongoing learning in using feedback productively (Carless & Boud, 2018)
  • Need for a conceptualization of assessment in learning beyond the academy (Boud & Falchikov, 2006)
  • Challenge in preparing students for the feedback mechanisms they will encounter in the workplace (Loizides et al., 2019)
  • Avoid risks of single-path assessment approaches (M. Smith et al., 2005)
  • Support ‘aliveness’ in the practice (E. Wenger et al., 2002a)
  • Reflective episodes & better commitment to practice, following emotional events (C. Maxwell & Aggleton, 2014)
  • Tension & conflicts are critical in becoming “reflective practitioners” (Jackson, 2016)
  • (EP5) Following the outputs of guidelines EP1-ΕP4, disseminate the epistemic plan to CoP members.
  • Include a schedule of deliverables which clearly states the expected feedback contribution by specific CoP members
    i.e. ‘Week 4: Low-fidelity prototypes submission & feedback by alumni mentors within a week’
  • (EP6) Provide directions & discuss the feedback criteria with the external reviewers, in terms of:
    • Focus of specific deliverables i.e.:

‘Week 4 feedback should focus on UI design & usability features, while in week 6, the focus of feedback shifts to system functionality’

    • Volume: set a word-range, or a specific number of reviewers for each deliverable, for each team i.e.:

‘Assign one alumni mentor per team (versus all 3) to provide feedback on a specific week & limit this feedback to a maximum of 200 words per team’

    • Alternatively, ask mentors to provide generic public feedback, based on everybody’s work (versus a one-on-one approach)
    • Tone: request to avoid plain judgements & harsh criticism, and instead use mild tones, constructive comments, & recommendations
  • (EP7) Request reviewers to invite student responses on process-oriented feedback; i.e. reviewers should ask questions & clarifications on the design processes, quickly brainstorm (i.e. in sync/async tools) with students on design possibilities, & compare their outcomes with others’ work (in the CoP) to generate feedback discussion
    • Mindmapping software: Coggle, Miro, MindMaster
  1. Include the external stakeholders’ evaluations, i.e. the graded project deliverables into the (formative) academic assessment plan
  • Integrate these with instructor evaluations, as well as other formatively assessed academic deliverables (i.e. peer reviews)
  • Use questionnaires to extract student evaluations on the feedback’s focus, volume & tone properties, as well as the opportunities for reciprocity provided by the CoP experts, following every feedback milestone

The purpose of expert CoP members

Identification with experts’ trajectories

Need for collocated interaction

Identity transformation & grounding


Invite industry members with various degrees of expertise to provide briefs, expert insights, feedback, & evaluation of student work

  • Need for cross-boundary communication to ‘get things done’ (Pyrko et al., 2019)
  • CoPs require smaller leaps of learning efforts on behalf of novices (E. Wenger, 2014)
  • Construction of professional identities (Woods et al., 2016)
  • Generational discontinuities (E. Wenger, 1998)
  • Understanding of the wider “geography of competence in the social world”, development of identity through three ‘modes of belonging’(Jackson, 2016; E. Wenger, 1998, 2013)
  • Multi-generational & multi-relational proximity (Culver & Bertram, 2017; Patahuddin & Logan, 2015)
  • Paradigmatic trajectories (E. Wenger, 1998)
  • The significant role of alumni for mentoring students in higher education (A. Rourke & Mendelssohn, 2017)
  • (EP8) For the role of industrial mentors (clients), seek to recruit local businesses, start-ups, & non-profit organizations in various sectors to provide projects, resources & regular feedback on project work.

Incentives for external members: to receive assistance in the development of early ideas, as ‘proof-of-concepts’, or for projects that are pending, due to lack of budget, time, & human capital.

  • For the role of industrial experts, seek to recruit people with a minimum of six years expertise in the field, and/or in key organizational positions, coming from similar academic/industrial backgrounds.

Incentives: opportunities to establish communication channels with universities, provide directions, influence outcomes, & have the chance to draw from a graduate talent pool based on their prior collaboration

  • (EP9) Alumni mentors should be fairly recent graduates with similar academic backgrounds to those of students

Incentives: maintain social ties with the university, gather experience, enrich résumés, establish collaboration

  • (EP10) Invite experts to talk about their academic & professional career paths: university-to-industry transition, the evolution of their work & professional identity, various case-studies, challenging situations & counter-actions, views on the local/global industry, future career prospects, share useful online resources
  • (EP11) See EP8. Additionally, ensure that ‘clients’ are aware that project deliverables will come in the form of ‘proof-of-concepts’ rather than ready-to-publish outcomes
  • Include the external stakeholders’

graded project outputs into the (summative) academic assessment plan

  • Integrate these with instructor evaluations, as well as evaluations from other summative academic deliverables (i.e. exams)
  • Peer-team evaluations of projects
  • Evaluate students’ reflective memos of their project performance & outcomes
  • Evaluate students’ reflective memos of their experiences from the expert sessions (i.e. talks and workshops