Date of Award

Fall 10-22-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Science in Information Systems


Business and Information Systems

First Advisor

Amit Deokar

Second Advisor

Surendra Sarnikar

Third Advisor

Viki Johnson


Online Communities of Practice allow their members to transcend the limitations of geography when communicating about a topic. However, many communities of practice fail due to a lack of knowledge sharing. How can community leaders build communities of practice that facilitate knowledge sharing and knowledge utilization among their members? One of the driving factors in any group is the commitment that members make to the community. Past research has shown that the continuance, affective and normative commitment of members influences thread-reading, posting and moderating behaviors in online communities. However, online communities of practice may have different dynamics than other online communities, especially when measuring the crucial behaviors of knowledge collection, contribution, utilization and community moderation. Community commitments play a crucial role in the life of an online community of practice. Community leaders need to know what factors drive members to make a commitment to the community and whether those commitments encourage knowledge sharing and utilization, which is the goal of online communities of practice. Group members must gain knowledge they can use outside the group or they are unlikely to return. This study contributes to the research on online communities of practice by addressing the following three questions. What factors serve as antecedents to a member making a commitment to the online community of practice? How are knowledge sharing, and group moderation behaviors influenced by a member’s commitment to the community? How do knowledge collection and contribution behaviors affect knowledge utilization in an online community of practice? The proposed community commitment model of knowledge sharing in online communities of practice posits the following relationships. Satisfaction, social capital, obligation and altruistic factors influence the formation of community commitments in online communities of practice. Ease of use, usefulness, and system reliability help determine whether or not a member makes a continuance commitment to the community. Social interaction, shared language, reciprocity, trust and identification encourage members to make an affective commitment. Positive social influence and enjoying helping impact whether or not a member makes a normative commitment. Community commitment predicts knowledge management and group moderation behaviors. Members with a high continuance commitment are most likely to collect knowledge. Strong affective commitments lead members to contribute knowledge and act as group moderators. Members who help moderate and facilitate the group are likely to have a stronger normative commitment. Knowledge sharing behaviors increase knowledge utilization on the part of the member. Members who collect more knowledge tend to utilize more knowledge. Members who contribute knowledge utilize more knowledge as well. To determine the validity of the model, a survey instrument was developed and tested to measure community commitment and knowledge management. Online communities of practice were surveyed to examine the types of commitments that group members make to a community and the antecedents and results of those commitments. The results were analyzed using structural path analysis techniques. According to the analysis of the survey data, members make continuance (needbased), affective (emotion-based) and normative (obligation-based) commitments to online communities of practice. Usefulness and system reliability lead members to make a continuance commitment. Social interaction and identification encourage members to make an affective commitment. Positive social influence and altruism influence members to make a normative commitment. Members who make a continuance commitment engage in more knowledge collection behaviors. Members who make an affective commitment contribute more knowledge and engage in more group moderation behaviors. Members who make a normative commitment engage in more group moderation activities. Members who collect knowledge are more likely to contribute and utilize knowledge. Members who contribute knowledge tend to utilize more knowledge. The results of this study imply that community leaders can increase knowledge sharing and knowledge utilization behaviors by strengthening the commitment that group members make to a community. Need-based commitments can be increased by improving the ease of use of the platform and the usefulness of the knowledge shared in the community. Emotionally-based commitments can be encouraged by increasing opportunities for social interaction between group members and fostering an environment that causes members to identify with the community. Obligation-based commitments can be encouraged by recruiting group members who enjoy helping others and by allowing group members to exert a reasonable amount of peer pressure on each other.