Communities of Practice (CoP)

Communities of practice and social learning spaces are frequently mis-described and a lack of theoretical knowledge often hampers community managers in creating productive spaces that are centered around knowledge exchange and cultivating new expertise. This course will combine key concepts from social learning theory with practical examples so that participants will have a clear understanding of the scope of their CoP, how to support co-creation together, and how to describe the different kinds of value being produced.

Where CoP fits in CSCCE’s community manager training catalog

CoP is an elective course in the CSCCE Community Manager Certification Program, although you may also take the course if you are not working towards CSCCE community manager certification.

This course is specifically designed for community managers who are actively running a community of practice, but the size or maturity of your community does not matter.


CoP is for anyone wanting to dive deeper into social learning theory and how to create virtual and in-person spaces for community learning. All learners must first complete Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals and Content Design and be actively managing a community, collaboration, or team. 

Course overview

This course is a theory-driven exploration of how to nurture communities of practice in STEM. We’ll cover describing your community’s purpose and identifying who you need in  your community for it to succeed, and what a “practice” can look like in terms of programming and other support. We’ll consider existing communities of practice and draw from the literature to discuss strategies to overcome common challenges.

This course runs for eight weeks, with two 90 minute sessions each week. 

To graduate from CoP, participants are required to attend a majority of sessions (two absences are permitted) and participate in a final graduation event. 

Course syllabus and learning objectives

Please note, all course syllabi are currently in draft form. Please check back in September for additional details.

This course is still in its early development stages, and more details will be provided soon. Prospective learners can expect lessons to cover the following topics: 

  • Defining communities of practice and social learning spaces
  • Social learning in practice – and the different types of value created
  • Identifying the three structural elements of your CoP (its domain, community and practice) and the different member roles that are present.
  • Identifying how knowledge flows in your community 
  • Identifying the different member roles within a CoP and how to balance between them
  • Overcoming the common challenges to participation in CoPs
  • CoP development – and how your community might evolve

Course outputs

  • A knowledge management plan to maximize the benefits of your CoP activities

Course text

Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge (2002) Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder


This course is led by: 

  • Lou Woodley, CSCCE Director
  • Camille Santistevan, Director of Learning


Coming soon!

Included in the course fee

The benefits of taking CoP include: 

  • New language and theoretical frameworks to describe the flow of knowledge in your CoP and the different types of value created
  • Accountability through peer co-working to ensure that you complete (or nearly complete) your community playbook
  • Access to worksheets, activities and assignments via CSCCE’s LMS
  • A dedicated cohort channel in CSCCE’s Slack community of practice where you can share ideas and resources with your classmates and facilitators

Participants in the CSCCE Community Manager Certification Program will also receive:

  • Assessment and feedback on select course assignments
  • digital badge to confirm your graduation from the course (dependent on completion of all course requirements)

Related consultancy offerings

While we haven’t run this course before, CSCCE’s Director and Director of Learning both have a strong background in social learning theory and we’ve applied this approach to numerous client projects. We’ve helped clients conceptualize the key elements of their CoP, carried out member research to identify current member roles within a CoP, and partnered on preliminary research to assess the value created in social learning spaces convened by community champions. If you’d like to learn more about our consulting services on this topics, please email to schedule a conversation.