Is there a place for ‘lurkers’ in connectivism?

The Fournier et al. (2014) reading struck me for its reference to a number of projects that have looked to develop networked learning for (apparently) no other reason than that emergent technologies have, well… emerged. (‘[I]nformation and knowledgeable others are readily available at the press of a button for all who are interested in expanding their horizons (2).) This unquestioned technological determinism seems to be a recurring theme in this block.

I’ve been questioning how a connectivist approach to learning – one in which an individual’s engagement and interaction with a distributed learning network is taken to ‘constitute learning’ (Bell, 2011, in Fournier et al. 2014, 2) – can be reconciled with, for example, the phenomenon of ‘lurkers’. Embracing a connectivist approach to education suggests that success should be measured by a certain predetermined level and quality of participation. But this fails to account for individual differences.

Fournier et al. (2014) say that in an open online learning environment ‘the onus is on the learners to organize their learning activities, to match them both to the best technologies to use and to the most suitable persons to communicate with on their social network in order to reach their learning goal [my emphasis]’ (3). But how can achievement be measured reliably if there are, in fact, as many different possible ‘types’ of achievement as there are individual learning goals? This suggests something of a paradox: the aim of a connectivist approach cannot be to achieve, at the same time, a certain level of participation AND every individual’s specific learning goal.

Could it even be possible that the very act of enforcing or, at least, encouraging participation and interaction is the catalyst for lurking?

This is not to say I don’t believe participatory approaches have their place. Although I am yet to be convinced I am learning from sharing knowledge with my #mscedc peers, I do find the interaction provides motivation to learn. And in the case of #mscedc, the participatory approach is directly aligned to the course topics and aims: to get us to problematise the notion of community in digital education.

It is for this same reason that I believe the MOOC I have been studying for my micro-ethnography (Cross-cultural Competency) could have embraced participatory approaches. If ever there was a MOOC that lent itself to a connectivist approach, surely this was it? Hence my surprise at coming across this message buried in a course announcement:

My micro-ethnography is taking shape and already represents a criticism of the MOOC for ‘silencing’ participants. This is not because I wholeheartedly endorse a connectivist approach but rather because I believe, in this specific case, that not encouraging participants to interact and engage with one another and share their knowledge was a missed opportunity.

Fournier, H., Kop, R. and Durand, G., (2014). Challenges to Research in MOOCs. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), pp.1–15.

2 Replies to “Is there a place for ‘lurkers’ in connectivism?”

  1. Alex, you really know how to write where it digs in – thank you for sharing.
    Can a community exist if it is all self-identify and challenging yourself? Can’t you get that by reading a book online?
    I would have found a MOOC that was “silencing” hard to follow as experience help me but then again as you point out may not help everyone. I would like to share more experiences of practice but this module is focused around that specifically so maybe the next one will be and we can share relateable experiences then.

    I think your visual artefact will be brilliant as the aspect of silenced and how you see a community on a shared interest.

    #js

  2. ‘This unquestioned technological determinism seems to be a recurring theme in this block.’

    Great link here. The idea that networked technologies are inherently ‘constructivist’ seems to be one that I see often.

    ‘Embracing a connectivist approach to education suggests that success should be measured by a certain predetermined level and quality of participation. ‘

    Really excellent point here. The general claim in connectivism that ‘learning *is* the network’ seems to rely on an active / passive binary, which privileging the former, and seems to overlook forms of participation not amenable to being recorded as data. I also think there is a strange privileging of the confession in some connectivist discourse – the idea that one must always openly confess one’s learning, or lack of it, to the group in order to authentically learn.

    ‘the aim of a connectivist approach cannot be to achieve, at the same time, a certain level of participation AND every individual’s specific learning goal.’

    Indeed. However, I suspect this isn’t really taking into account the idea that someone’s learning goal might not involve participation, given that ‘openness’ sometimes seen as a core, and necessary, activity.

    ‘Could it even be possible that the very act of enforcing or, at least, encouraging participation and interaction is the catalyst for lurking?’

    This may well be a factor. Despite a lot of positive reactions to the connectivist MOOCs, they still had plenty of lurkers!

    ‘My micro-ethnography is taking shape and already represents a criticism of the MOOC for ‘silencing’ participants.’

    Looking forward to seeing this!

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