Understanding lurkers

Last week I attended the most excellent SocMedHE16 conference to present a paper that I have co-written with Aras Bozkurt, Len Singh and AK based on some research we have been doing about learner behaviour in #CLMOOC – an online community I’ve been a part of for the last couple of years.

We looked at reasons that people might lurk and concluded that it is complex  – and that there is a lot more research that we could do to really unpack the different types of lurking and lurkers that are found in online communities. Lots of responses mentioned a lack of time, but I suggested that this needed to be thought about in more detail – as we often find time to do things we really want to – as James Clay highlights in this blog post.

After about 15 minutes of talking I threw the discussion over to the audience and we had a really lively discussion about learner motivations, whether we should “reclaim” the word “lurker” or whether there was a better term, and implications of our research to more traditional types of online courses. The session was recorded, and will be available on the SocMedHE16 pages in the New Year.

Thanks to everybody who came along for making this a great session – and thanks to Sue Watling for her take on it.

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9 Responses to Understanding lurkers

  1. fmindlin says:

    Interesting presentation. One comment I would make in relation to CLMOOC in particular: the subset of participants who share my focus on primary grade children, 1st and 2nd grade, with 3rd graders the transition group to upper elementary, is quite small. The vast majority of participants teach at the college level, with sizable groups who teach high school and middle/junior high. So the number of posts/activities which relate directly to my concerns and which I feel competent to make meaningful contributions about is quite small. I listen and watch a lot, and draw analogies, but seldom feel I can directly engage. Also, I’d offer an alternative term to lurking: hovering.

  2. So are there degrees of ‘lurkage”? If so it seems to me there is another category sort of like the “unknown unknowns”- what I like to think of as the dark matter of MOOCs–those who attend but give no evidence of having even been there.

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      I think that there are definitely degrees – and yes, the unknown unknowns are … unknown.

      • fmindlin says:

        It all depends on the altimeter setting in your hovercraft: if you skim the surface, then you’re likely to be somewhat visible, and even create ripples below; if you’re higher up, no one will notice. And if you have one of those modren drones with a completely silent motor that we haven’t even heard of because they’re so classified, you can fly at any altitude you want and drop bombs that non one knows where they come from…

  3. dogtrax says:

    In the first year of CLMOOC, it was Joe Dillon who set the stage, time and again during the planning sessions, for welcoming both active and more passive participants. I can’t remember if we used the word “lurker” at all, given a certain negative connotation. Language of the welcome was important. Consistent language, too, throughout the entire MOOC cycles and into the following years. More than one person has noted that they just watched the first year and dipped in the second, and maybe explored more actively the third. Keeping the door open is critical.
    Kevin

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      Yes, it is. I appreciate all that you do to welcome newcomers in.

      • Aras BOZKURT says:

        Lurker’s are usually defined as “silent, invisible learners; or observers”… I think we load a negative meaning. This article may help to perceive lurkers positively 😉 As stated, the basic cure is keeping the door open and welcoming everyone in a right manner.

      • Aras BOZKURT says:

        As stated, the cure is keeping the door open and welcoming everyone in a right manner…

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