This course puts you in a slightly unusual position of being a course participant who is training to be a moderator. What factors would influence your opinion about lurking in a course you were moderating? What action, if any, would you take?
We have discussed 'lurking' a lot and we agreed that lurking was not the right word to use, that RoP sounded a lot better. I also read a blog post by Steve Wheeler.
I have thought a lot about what reasons some of my peers brought and I assume in many cases the reasons were from their own experience.
Nil: People might lurk because they are lacking confidence especially in writing skills as they know everyone will be reading. So they are afraid of making mistakes. Slow workers are also in danger of lurking because by the time they read and get acquainted with the tasks many of the participants would have completed their tasks.
Marius: People may 'lurk' because they feel that they have nothing to add to a discussion, and because they don't see the point in simply repeating what someone has already said. Although, in fact repetition of a point might give some a sense of support for their views, and give more weight to their side of a discussion.
They might also be lurking because the have a more 'passive' learning style, and prefer to reflect on things more privately.
Bev: I think learning style is one of the most important factors why people might lurk. Just as in a class of students, face to face, there are different characters in a group of participants and different approaches to learning. Some participants may need to listen (read) and process information before they can produce (write).
I also think it takes people time to accustomise themselves to the medium, if it is the first time they have experienced an online course.
Another reason for lurking might be that a participant feels in awe of the wealth of experience of colleagues on the course and feels shy to make contributions.
Thuy Hang: I also think that "lurking" takes place when people are sometimes forgetful of their responsibility or they find their tasks not challenging enough.Each lurker has his/her own reasons for their participant inactivity once in a while
Phuong Dung:The only remaining reason for my post now is my personality as ‘it is more embarrassing to make public postings that have no value.’ (Klemm, 1998) As an adult learner, I am performing a very low level of risk-taking spirit and leaning on inactive learning style.
Marie: Related to active participation in e-courses, I have had one idea on my mind: how is it influenced by various learning styles? I find this mode of communication mainly visual - how about auditive and kinaesthetic participants? May the specific character of the environment influence their participation? (Personally, I am mainly visual but need a lot of movement too and often leave the computer without responding when I see too many things I want to respond too - my energy gets so high, that I need to let out physically - and in the end I don't respond at all...).
I think my opinion would be influenced by how much of the course work the lurker actually does. If the person logs in and I see that s/he does the tasks, then I would try to find out why s/he doesn't post to forums and try to encourage the person by sending private messages and offering help and tips. I would also congratulate the person if s/he has posted anything.
I think if active participation is part of the course requirements then the person should be aware of this. This might make him start contributing to discussions. However, the person's privacy should be taken into account too. If the person participates in the study forums but doesn't want to say much in the social forum, then I think having found this out I wouldn't try to make the person participate. Everyone has the right to preserve their privacy and not to share much with anybody.
Another problem could be the size of the group. As Wheeler says the bigger the group the less participants contribute. In case of a big group I don't really think that one moderator will manage to send personal messages to everyone who doesn't participate.
Another thing that Wheeler says in his post is that the same inactive participation can be observed in a f2f setting but it doesn't cause negative attitudes: everyone accepts the person's way of learning. But for some reason the same behaviour offends participants of an online course. Why could this be? Perhaps because in an online course we do not see the lurkers and don't know what they are doing exactly (not obviously moderators), but in real life when we see the person who just wants to learn by listening, we accept the fact readily.