Online engagement is difficult when teaching complex clinical reasoning skills which are central to developing professionalism in the health and welfare workforce. This paper explores how our team has engaged students in online discussion by introducing research projects brought by our practice partners to the mix of activities completed by students. At Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory, Australia, the social work and humanitarian studies degree-level programmes are delivered in blended mode involving a combination of face-to-face and online learning. Within these modes of delivery students are presented with questions and activities drawn from our practice partners to bring 'real world relevance' to learning. Drawing from examples provided by the practice settings in which the students wish to work after they graduate, we have found that this relationship between the academy and practice agency effectively bridges the gap between the worlds of theory and practice for our students. In a community of learning model, students elect to work on local practice partners' projects throughout the semester. This mix of academia working in partnership with frontline social and humanitarian workers brings immediacy to the learning. Opportunities for 'deep learning' are facilitated by this partnership approach. The implications for using communities of learning models for engaging students from two professions in online activities are discussed.