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MSPnet: Nested Communities Interacting Online


"MSPnet is an electronic community of practice that provides the MSP program with a web-based, interactive electronic community of practice. Its goals are to:
  • Provide a vehicle for all NSF MSP projects to access and to share resources, emerging research, tools, best practices, obstacles, and strategies.

  • Provide each project with an interactive website that will allow for the sharing of resources as well as communication tools to enhance and sustain dialogue between constituents and partners at a distance.

  • Enhance the public's access to and knowledge of the MSP program.

  • Deepen the research and knowledge base on electronic communities of practice.

In order to design our web environment to accomplish these goals, we needed to undertake two kinds of analysis. First, we needed to develop a model of the community we were to serve. Second, we needed to design a web space that reflected our best understanding of the structure and needs of the MSP community. We fully expected that our initial analyses would enable us to serve the M SP community well, but that experience would provide us with indications for improvement, either in our understanding of the community, or in the tools designed to serve the community. In this paper, we briefly describe our community model, relate that to the resulting website design, and then examine data from the first year and a half of MSPnet's service, to reflect upon aspects of this large, innovative virtual community."