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Building a better community of practice

To bring together academics, researchers, public policy makers, administrators and families, the University of Kansas Beach Center on Disability has implemented community of practice technology. The Center has selected Tomoye Ecco 2.0 from Tomoye to build an online community where people can share information and connect with their peers.

The solution will be tightly integrated with the organization's existing Microsoft Office SharePoint infrastructure. The Center is moving from an earlier version of Ecco to take advantage of new features that further simplify participation, such as e-mail, more networking capabilities, improved capacity for collaborations (wikis using SharePoint) and the ability to create Web logs, according to a recent press release from Tomoye.

George Gotto, community of practice administrator at Beach Center, says, "We'd realized that our research was only really being shared with other academics, and we wanted to put families at the center of that process so they could view that information and then add to it based on their experiences. We had formed a face-to-face community of practice with participants from across the country and realized that an online community could really take this to the next level by making the information sharing and discussions happen year-round."

The Center chose Tomoye based on its ease of use, flexibility and its range of social networking functions. Tight integration with the SharePoint infrastructure enables community members to leverage the functionality and information in the widely used document management and collaboration tool, Tomoye reports.

"Since rolling out our community of practice, we've been able to create a real forum for sharing ideas, discussing issues and more," Gotto adds. "The information we have is no longer sitting in a journal on a shelf; it is being brought to life by the families it impacts and the people who do research on and make policies related to disabilities. We've been able to take much of that research and produce more content and tools based on what is happening in the community. Ultimately, this couldn't have happened without the creation of an online community of practice that members can access 24/7."

The Beach Center delivers research, teaching and technical help to improve the quality of life of families and individuals affected by disabilities.

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