Social Capital in Virtual Learning Communities and Distributed Communities of Practice


  • Ben Daniel
  • Richard A. Schwier
  • Gordon McCalla



Abstract. Social capital has recently emerged as an important interdisciplinary research area. It is frequently used as a framework for understanding various social issues in temporal communities, neighbourhoods and groups. In particular, researchers in the social sciences and the humanities have used social capital to understand trust, shared understanding, reciprocal relationships, social network structures, common norms and cooperation, and the roles these entities play in various aspects of temporal communities. Despite proliferation of research in this area, little work has been done to extend this effort to technology-driven learning communities (also known as virtual learning communities). This paper surveys key interdisciplinary research areas in social capital. It also explores how the notions of social capital and trust can be extended to virtual communities, including virtual learning communities and distributed communities of practice. Research issues surrounding social capital and trust as they relate to technology-driven learning communities are identified.