Virtual Communities Of Practices (VCoPs) for Ensuring Innovation at Universities -Fırat University Sample

Assoc. Prof. Dr.Istanbul University, Faculty of Open and Distance Education, Istanbul- Turkey


Problem Statement: In our era, to generate innovative and strategic knowledge and use it to produce new products and services bears the utmost importance in terms of providing improvement, innovation, and thus competitiveness for organizations. Higher education institutions are considered prominent organizations leading the change for innovation by producing new knowledge and new know how(s). However, universities generally fall short in meeting these expectations and are very slow in generating new knowledge. Meanwhile, ever-evolving information and communication technologies (ICT) offer various opportunities in terms of knowledge utilization and the knowledge generation field. In this context, virtual communities of practices (VCoPs) have drawn attention due to their collaborative knowledge producing potential, which fosters organizational learning and improvement.

Purpose of The Study: The goal of this research is, based on the views of senior administrators at Fırat University and in the scope of the literature review, to determine the importance of and barriers to VCoPs, as well as determine the leadership roles for the constitution and utilization of VCoPs at the university setting.

Method: In this study, the opinions of 21 administrators were gathered via semi-structured interviews and the data obtained were analyzed through content analysis method. The views of each respondent were written down, listed, and coded. Then, according to the meanings of the codes, categories were determined and analyzed while taking into consideration the iterative procedure.

Findings and Results: The findings revealed that VCoPs were thought to be important for ensuring improvement and innovation by the majority of the administrators; however, some barriers, such as distrust and insecurity, lack of leadership, and lack of knowledge and skills existed. In order to achieve effective utilization results for VCoPs, greater leadership roles, such as opportunity enhancement, staff encouragement, knowledge utilization, and monitoring developments, were proposed by the administrators.

Conclusion and Recommendations: VCoPs were thought to be important by almost all of the university administrators for ensuring improvement and innovation. However, there were serious barriers which hindered the utilization of VCoPs. To overcome these barriers and in order to make the university staff eager to participate in VCoPs, certain leadership roles were seen as necessary.

Keywords: Higher education, VCoPs, improvement, innovation, tacit knowledge.