The Role of Communities of Practice in Building Capacity for Shared Learning for Development: the Case of an Online Postgraduate Programme in International Primary Health Care

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF5 Sub-theme: Health // In 2003 we established the first online Masters programme in international primary health care at University College London. Five years on we have successfully cultivated a vibrant global community of primary care practitioners working in development roles across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Within a carefully structured but flexible virtual learning environment, health promotion specialists, nutritionists, nurses, doctors and a wide range of other primary care professionals from the north and south come together to share information, build knowledge and support each other. Collectively, they demonstrate in very tangible ways the value of open and distance learning, not only for personal and professional development, but also for the development of primary care internationally. Many of our students are fully sponsored by a Commonwealth scholarship scheme aimed specifically at enabling Commonwealth scholars to become part of a wider community of practice and to achieve multiplier effects during and after their studies. // In this paper we outline the constructivist pedagogic principles and the communities of practice model of learning we have drawn upon in developing our course. We review what is known about the role of communities of practice in building capacity for shared learning, and describe the strategies we have developed for maximising learning in an online environment. We present case-studies to illustrate the linkages between academic study and the development work our students are engaged in to improve the quality of primary health care in the communities and regions in which they work. Finally, we reflect upon the key challenges we face in delivering an online postgraduate programme in international primary health care. // Paper ID 322