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Reality is our laboratory: communities of practice in applied computer science

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Abstract:

The present paper presents a longitudinal study of the course 'High-tech Entrepreneurship and New Media'. The course design is based on socio-cultural theories of learning and considers the role of social capital in entrepreneurial networks. By integrating student teams into the communities of practice of local start-ups, we offer learning opportunities to students, companies and academia. The student teams are connected to each other and to their supervisors in academia and practice through a community-system. Moreover, the course is accompanied by a series of lectures and group discussions. In this paper we want to present our experiences and to reflect upon the design changes between the first and the second instance of the course. The evaluation of the course showed that the work on real-world problems and the collaboration in teams together with partners from start-up companies were evaluated as very positive, although design flaws, and cultural and professional diversities limited the success of the first instance in 2001. For the second course in 2002, the didactical design was improved significantly according to evaluation results, which brought evidence that the design changes resulted in better collaborative practices and more stable relationships between start-up companies and students. Furthermore, it was found that especially the differences in cultural background and different historical experiences between the two distinct groups of 'students' and 'entrepreneurs' might make processes of social identification more difficult and, therefore, successful community-building less likely'.

Keywords: Case study; Communities of practice; Entrepreneurship; New media; Social capital

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01449290600811636

Affiliations: 1: IISI: International Institute for Socio-Informatics, Bonn, Germany,Institute for Information Systems and New Media, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany 2: Lehrstuhl für Informatik V, Aachen, Germany 3: Lehrstuhl für Informatik V, Aachen, Germany,Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology (FhG-FIT), Schloss Birlinghoven, Augustin, Germany 4: Institute for Information Systems and New Media, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany,Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology (FhG-FIT), Schloss Birlinghoven, Augustin, Germany

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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