Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here come the lurkers!

Well, It's week 9 of Rhizo14 (or week 3 of the after party of rhizo14, depending on how you look at it.)  Last week we had a discussion on de-mobing teachers (I guess enabling teachers to not teach to the test?). To be honest I lurked a bit last week on facebook since the day job, the other work obligations, the DML conference (which was awesome!) and subsequent weekend food poisoning made me miss out on Rhizo, and get behind on the FutureLearn Corpus Linguistics course.

Anyway, how apropos that we've just promoted the Week 10 topic to Week 9!  All about Lurkers! The overall question proposed for Week 9 is "Why do we need lurkers?"

If you go back through my MOOC blog posts, which at the moment number somewhere in the 170 range (how the heck did that happen?) you can see that I haven't really thought much about lurkers in MOOCs, and in thinking about designing MOOCs, I don't think of lurkers much then either.

The reason I don't think of lurkers much is that the majority of learning experiences, for me, require some sort of interaction.  I do acknowledge that there is content-learner interaction, and this is a valid type of interaction. For this reason I do respect the right of lurkers to lurk and engage in that content-learner interaction as they see fit for their own intended learning outcomes.  That said, interaction (which hopefully is engaging) does not necessarily equate to participation.  For me, participation is a learner-learner, and to some extent learner-facilitator, type of interaction which, again, should foster engagement.  It is through this separate, and different, type of interaction that we get more materials, different views, different entry points to the same materials, and different departure destinations. Seems, and sounds a lot like a rhizome, and it can grow, and be traversed, but only if there are enough people to put in the effort to grow this from the seedlings that the instructional designers and course creators provide. A self-paced course will (probably) be the same each time it runs, same start and end.  But a cMOOC, when it runs multiple times (if someone wants to take it multiple times) can have a lot of variation.

As I was working on a literature review for an article I am working on with a colleague, I came across an article by Rita Kop on PLENK2010. The following is a quote from a lurker:
"My lurking provided me with a wealth of information and education into MOOC, PLE, PLN, PLC, and how information and knowledge will be shared by all—teachers, students, kids, adults. . . . PLENK has provided me an opportunity to listen to the experts. . .I come in and read the posts that are of most interest to me. I wanted to know how it affects my teaching efforts, my learning, and how to share this with others. The discussions did give me a clear idea of how they are used by different people. . .Thank you for allowing lurkers, who may not know enough to post, but have learned a great deal in just lurking."
from: Kop, R. (2011). The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experience during a massive open online course. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 12(3).

Most lurking seems to be of this variety (at least from my own personal experiences).  If lurkers don't want to feed anything back to the community, then that's OK; however do we need lurkers in MOOCs?  I can't see a reason why you'd need them since they don't feed back something into the whole process.  I would not design a MOOC around lurkers.  If I did, I'd call it a self-paced course, or OER.  Not  a MOOC.

Your thoughts?
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