The NLII working definition of virtual community is "a group of people (and the social "place" that they collectively create) that relies primarily on networked communication media to communicate and connect." Communities of practice are "groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis." (Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder, 2002) Four pilots are underway as part of the EDUCAUSE Virtual Communities of Practice Initiative. They are organized around the following topics:
- Electronic Portfolios
- Learning Objects
- Teaching and Learning
- The New Academy
For the EDUCAUSE Virtual Communities of Practice Initiative, a parallel purpose is to harvest new insights about topics in the different knowledge domains represented by the virtual communities of practice, including emerging/interesting practices, and "rise-aboves" from the discussions, then collect these in a useful format and disseminate them in white papers, articles, focus session, presentations, and other forums to those interested in the topics but not able to participate directly.