Distributed Apprenticeship in Online Communities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Supporting learning in online communities is an important direction for the future of human–computer interaction as people increasingly leverage social technologies to support professional growth and development. However, few have studied how people leverage the socio-technical affordances of online informal workplace communities to develop professional skills in the absence of dedicated expert guidance. We draw from theories of apprenticeship to introduce an emergent theory of distributed apprenticeship, which outlines how community expectations of transparency and mutual support allow for instruction to be directed by a distributed network of nonexperts. We develop distributed apprenticeship through a qualitative study of crowdfunding entrepreneurs, where novices leverage social interactions with community members to develop a wide range of entrepreneurial skills. We then generalize distributed apprenticeship to other workplace contexts and provide design implications for online communities where people develop professional skills with minimal dedicated formal guidance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-378
Number of pages51
JournalHuman-Computer Interaction
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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