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 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.