BACKGROUND/AIM: Networking, together with knowledge acquisition and resource sharing, are key components of occupational therapists' professional development. To enhance the connectedness and clinical support available to occupational therapists, OT AUSTRALIA Queensland developed an online community of practice (CoP). No research regarding the use of online CoPs by occupational therapists has been conducted. This study aimed to explore occupational therapists' perceptions of the benefits of, barriers to, and reasons for using or not using the online CoP.
METHODS: Two focus groups were conducted, one with therapists who had used the CoP (n = 5) and the other with therapists who had not used it (n = 9). Participant responses to focus group questions informed the development of a survey asking therapists about their use of the CoP, its benefits and reasons for using/not using it, which was sent via email to all OT AUSTRALIA Queensland members.
RESULTS: Motivation to use the CoP, technology, workload management impacts, potential benefits and time considerations emerged as themes from the focus groups. Of the 55 survey respondents, 58.2% were aware of the CoP but only 32.7% had accessed it. Potential benefits of the CoP identified by participants included time efficiency, structural flexibility, networking capabilities and mentoring opportunities. Reasons for not accessing and/or participating in the CoP included access difficulties, usability difficulties, personal communication preferences and perceived irrelevance of available information.
CONCLUSION: The findings of this study suggest that the CoP is still in the early stages of development; however, it has the potential to be further embraced by therapists if further promotion, training and minor usability modifications are undertaken.