Sunday, September 7, 2008

Will Lurkers share their Cognitive Surplus?

With the impending launch of CCK08, I've been thinking about the 'real' participants in this massive open online course. The number of folks who have are receiving the introductory 'Daily' from Stephen Downes and George Siemens is now touted at 'just under 1900', but how many will actually participate?

In Stephen's introductory email, it is clear, that the facilitators hope to provide differentiated learning experiences: "We expect, and want, each student to have a different perspective, to have viewed different resources. That's part of the theory of Connectivism, the idea that people have unique experiences."

En masse, those with the greatest potential to impact in the course, will be lurkers.
Ken Allan, distance educator from New Zealand in a web article titled "Working with Online Communities led me to this conclusion:

"One behaviour in online groups that has been extensively studied is that of the non-participating members, termed the ‘lurkers’ - Etienne Wenger[2] calls them Legitimate Peripheral Participants. Lurkers are widely known to be among the majority of defined members and they have been found to make up over 90% of most online groups. They are perhaps the most important members in view of their potential to contribute to online groups."

To consider the potential impact of lurkers, familiarize yourself with Metcalfe's Law. My interpretation is that ""The value of a network increases exponentially with the increase in the number of 'active' nodes.

As Clay Shirky might suggest: "The value in media is no longer in sources but in flows; when we collaborate in sharing our cognitive surplus, it creates value that doesn't exist when we operate in isolation.""

While interested lurkers are more than welcome to engage with the content of CCK08, I'd like to invite the 1900 who expressed an interest, to engage with the participants of the course... If you need to step in lightly, maybe you'll consider adding a comment below?

Audio: If you'd like to learn more about CCK08, listen in on a conversation I had with my brother, which he published as the 'What is Connectivism Podcast'
Image: The map image is a screen grab from the collaboratively developed Google Map of CCK08 Participants.
Video: Clay Shirkey's "Cognitive Surplus" talk was recorded at Web 2.0.


Lisa said...

Hi Rodd,

I'd like to say a few words in defence of lurkers (though I guess I've now ruled myself out of that group by responding to your post)

As a marketer, I'd say that there are lurkers and there are the group can be segmented quite distinctly.

If people are lurking purely through laziness, in order to benefit from the work of others without making much effort themselves, then that is hardly in the spirit of the learning culture we are experiencing. Others (myself included)have every intention of contributing but recognise that time is limited and that we might not be as active as we would like to be.(And given that many CCK08 particpants are educators in some shape or form, the timing of this course with the start of term is not exactly ideal...)
Some lurkers may still participate in a less obvious way, perhaps by recommending the course to others.
On a practical level, with 1900 people signed up, if everyone was truely active then chaos would surely ensue...perhaps the organisers are praying for more lurkers :-)
Finally, it's surely possible to be TOO active...there are bound to be some characters who feel obliged to show the world how efficient/important they are are on a regular basis, ie by claiming to read and respond to all posts. The transparency of the medium soon highlights these people (on Twitter I quickly stop following the ones who clutter the screen by talking too much). Quality rather than quantity should be the message to these guys. This group needs to get a life :-)
Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. I think the both this course and the Clever Sheep are great - keep up the good work!

Rodd Lucier said...

You raise a very good point about the practicality of a conversation that has 1900 voices... many of whom may say more than we'd like to hear. And, you're absolutely on mark with the idea that there are 'unseen' ways in which educators will participate in CCK08.

I think also, that many who are only involved as readers, may not realize that they have value to add and connections to gain by taking the leap to contribute an idea or reflection.

Beyond the course content, the greatest lessons may well be experienced through the linking that will occur in the 'public' learning experience...

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi there, I'm trying desperately not to lurk but haven't got too much to say at this point. But even if I do say something in this course, will it get heard by anyone?

Rodd Lucier said...

Regarding the audience for our thinking, the only thing we can be sure of, is that there is no way that the entire class will see our comments! At best, a segment of the CCK08 group will reflect on and individual's thinking, with some connecting their own thoughts to the ideas we share...

April said...

Hi Rodd,
Lurking is a fine art--I spend a lot of time in my classroom just lurking. The things I learn from my students (when they do not realize I am there) often help me understand what I need to do better.
In the case of the CCK08 course, the sheer volume of information is taking me a long time to digest--I hate to make a rash judgement of any reading material. I have hesitantly stepped forward with a few observations and questions, but like Sarah I wonder if my thoughts and questions will be heard.

Rodd Lucier said...

April, I find that writing/responding/publicly reflecting are great ways to help me think more deeply about things. When the result leads others to think/write/respond, you realize that there is value to posing the question, stating the position or proposing the idea.

There is value to the lurker in lurking; there is value to all in more open participation...

Taina said...

Reluctantly loosening my lurker lips - or fingers, in this case - I agree with Lisa's comments.

I've yet to register my blog as part of CCK08, because it is in Finnish and my comments there are also in Finnish. I may have one or two readers, with whom I share the links that I've found useful and the thoughts that have arisen.

Thinking of constructivism as 'building meaning' and connectivism as 'growing meaning' is my current position. It is difficult to wade in a pool of plankton and think that one day something will evolve. It is easier to look higher plant organisms and see if any fruit are ripening.

Having seen the TVOntario program George Siemens mentioned in his blog, I now realize, that I may be perpetuating old patterns of learning. Since I'm not enrolled in the course for credit, I'm just happy to encounter occasional flashes of clarity. I don't know if I have anything to contribute, but I do know I not freeloading.

Rodd Lucier said...


Thanks so much for wading into the pool! I've been working with my son to collaboratively explore 'Spore', and your comments fit many unrelated learning situations.

The fact that so many global participants are engaging in the discussion, ensures that our collaborative understanding will evolve further than would otherwise be possible.