Although immense efforts have been invested in the construction of hundreds of learning object repositories, the degree of reuse of learning resources maintained in such repositories is still disappointingly low. As the reasons for this observation are not well understood, we carried out an empirical investigation with the objectives to identify recurring patterns in the retrieval and (re-) use of learning resources and to design and test social networking functionality supporting communities of practice. The outcomes of this project, which are reported here, aim to affect the design of a new generation of learning object repositories, like CampusContent, that tries to eliminate deficits of current repositories and involve recent contributions in the area of social software. Object of our investigation was LON-CAPA, a crossinstitutional learning content management and assessment system used since 2000. We analyzed hundreds of thousands of log data collected over a period of three years and detected various kinds of latent relationships among LON-CAPA users, such as the co-occurrence of learning resources from independent authors in instructional materials. To understand the rationale behind these findings, we conducted a study with LON-CAPA users. One section of the questionnaire asked for people's opinion about the expected benefit of community support. Nearly 80% of the study participants said that the formation of communities of practice (CoP) would be an asset to LON-CAPA. More than 80% would be ready to provide their profiles for matching up with CoPs and serve the community by spending time on the evaluation of resources they had used. Finally we sketch a faceted search functionality we designed to support CoPs among LON-CAPA users. This functionality is currently tested with two CoPs.
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