Paper Research – Establishing Communities of Practice among students and start up companies


This paper presents the concept and evaluation of the course “High-Tech Entrepreneurship and New Media”. The course design is based on socio-cultural theories of learning and considers capital in entrepreneurial networks.

Introducing student teams in to CoPs of local start-ups offers learning opportunities to the students, companies and academia. The student teams are connected to each other and to their supervisors in academia and practice through a community system.

The course is accompanied by a number of lectures and group discussions.

The paper presents empirical findings and reflects on changes in the design of the course which took place between its first and second instantation. The changes were made based on the empirical evaluation of the first course and a deeper analysis of the role of social capital.


Socio-cultural theories of learning stimulate the design of practice-based courses in computer science.

Results showed that networking on a technical and social level offers new opportunities for university level students.

By a precise selection of start-up partners, larger lab teams, coaching of the lab groups by tutors and increased motivation to use the technical community system, the collaboration and establishment of a common practice within the lab groups had been encouraged.

The computer support for learning CoP causes new duties and requirements for academic supervisors. Establishing a CoP needs social competences in fostering trust and team spirit.

Additional engagement of students, certain trainings and the conduction of more review meetings led to a better evaluation of the second instance.

The barriers for the establishment of CoP between university students and start-up companies are: limited resources and cultural differences.

Differences in cultural background and different historical experiences in the two groups of “students” and “entrepreneurs” might make social identification harder and therefore successful community-building less likely.

According to the social capital approach, the establishment of CoP between academia and regional industry requires a culture of mutual trust.

Both the establishment of a CoP and building of social capital need time to emerge – 3-4 months on a course to create a CoP between students and company practitioners isn’t long enough.

In all lab groups learning mechanisms of legitimate participation have been proved successfully. The students reported on high intensity learning while creating a common practice in the lab groups.




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