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Deploying virtual communities of practice as a digital tool in social work: a rapid review and critique of the literature

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This paper provides a rapid review, and a critique of extant literature on the use of virtual communities of practice (VCoP) as a type of digital tool in enhancing the social work profession. VCoP are ubiquitous and well documented as increasing the deployment of evidence-based practice interventions, and offers a borderless professional interaction for social workers. To this end, a rapid review of extant literature spanning a decade (2005–2015) was conducted using four electronic databases. Only 10 articles satisfied the inclusion–exclusion criteria out of the 67 potential articles produced from the databases searched. Summary of evidence table showed that Ning, Web 2.0, WebCT, email discussion forum, LISTSERV, and government-based web platforms were mostly used as VCoP digital tools by social workers. The 10 studies amplified VCoP utilization experiences of social workers from Israel, the USA, the UK, and India. Moreover, the study revealed that two major domains of social work (educational institutions and social service agencies) mostly used VCoP. Furthermore, the merits and demerits of VCoP, and a critique of the literature are delineated.
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Keywords: Virtual communities of practice; digital tool; practice communities; social work

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social Work, School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, Samford University, Birmingham, AL, USA

Publication date: April 2, 2016

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