Expectations of Collaboration and Participation in online environments

Expectations of Collaboration and Participation in online environments

I have been doing some more thinking and research about Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox article Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute (October 9, 2006) where he states” User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

As a result I came across Derek’s Blog and his great post on Participation Online – The Four Cs (make sure you check out his great diagram and explanation on Consumer> Commentor > Contributor> Commentator). Derek’s thought are many participants in the online environment move through the phases as they gain understanding and confidence i.e. as an individual embarks on their online journey there is some progression through these phases that is a characteristic of their online growth.

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The most important point he makes is that maybe we are being unrealistic expecting a person new to the online environment to set up their own blog and post to it or participate in an online forum, when they have no concept of what these are all about. He suggests that “maybe it is more appropriate to make the reading of other people’s blogs a course requirement, or simply adding comments to the course tutor’s blog etc. a legitimate learning activity”.

I have to say I totally agree with Derek. When I stop and reflect on my own online journey it has taken me a long time from when I was first introduced to blogging to actually want to participate. It was only when I learnt how to effectively locate blogs that I wanted to read, and how to subscribe to them in an efficient way that I became to appreciate the value of blogs and blogging. I think we have to accept that people need time to undertake this journey, and we need to use strategies with both our students and staff, that will gently assist them in their online journey without having unrealistic expectations (Note: Derek suggests that a semester is simply too short a time for someone who has never seen a blog before to suddenly be expected to have one up and running as a part of their course participation).

I wonder if as more people under go their online journey whether over time we will see an increase in online participation rate i.e. altering of the 90-9-1 rule?

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