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Note from aras: quantitative data represents numeric network metrics/ qualitative data represents sociograms (network visuals) and textual interview data
Understanding lurkers in
online learning communities
Sarah Honeychurch, University of Glasgow — @NomadWarMachine
Aras Bozkurt, Anadolu University — @arasbozkurt
Lenandlar Singh, University of Guyana - @lenandlar
Apostolos Koutropoulos, University of Massachusetts Boston — @koutropoulos
• Active Participants: Fully participate.
• Passive Participants: View course as content to
consume, expect to be taught.
• Drop-Ins: Become partially/fully active
participants for a select topic within the course,
do not attempt to complete the entire course.
• Lurkers: Enroll, just observe/sample a few items
Why do people lurk in online communities?
Lack of confidence?
Lack of competence?
Is there one main reason for lurking, or a variety of
What shifts a lurker into becoming more active?
1. How is lurking perceived by lurkers?
2. How is contribution defined from the
perspective of a lurker?
3. Do lurkers feel part of the community?
4. Why do people lurk (rather than joining in)?
5. What might persuade lurkers to join in?
6. Is lurking a lesser experience than participating,
or just a different one?
Community of Practice (CoP)
Pareto’s Law (80/20 rule)
Methodology • Mixed methodology:
• first quantitative, then qualitative
• Tweeted link to Google Forms
• 21 responses, 4 excluded
• Identified possible participants with NodeXL
• Sent follow up questionnaire
200 course participants in total
80 excluded as “no-shows”
24 active learners
Harel-Koren Fast Multiscale layout algorithm
Blue: 20%; red: 80%; black those accepted to participate online interviews; greens (no-
shows: someone mentioned them [kind of invitation to participate] but they never responded)
Findings • Lurking:
• silent/invisible engagement - passive involvement
• A type of action
• Potential to become visible
• Pique interest (time, strength of connection, diversity of
“being involved in a passive way: following the
ongoing conversation and sharing it with
without commenting, expressing opinions and
actively engaging in the conversation. Basically,
just what I did!” (Participant 4B)
“It depends on the authenticity of your limited
interactions with members. Certainly you still learn a
lot from conversations, from exploring what others
share and their blogs, and from their creativity. I'm
happy to appreciate what others create, and to add
people to my networks.” (Participant 2)
“lurking is a great way to learn, albeit by mostly
consuming - there is much to read, save and come
back to later, without necessarily completing any or
many of the activities.” (Participant 2B)
• Lurkers feel part of the community
• Technology plays a role in their level of
participation (sophisticated understanding and
usage of social media spaces)
• Some lurkers have internalized negative
attitudes about lurking
• Attitudes and views from traditional classrooms
carry into Open Online Learning spaces
• Lurking seen as a strategy for dealing with
Conclusion • Lurking is complex
• Cognitive apprenticeship
• Develop strategies which lure lurkers into the core of
• What strategies can we develop to lure in
• Is luring lurkers in desireable?
• Why do YOU lurk?
• What would tempt you into more active
From: Sarah, Aras, Len, and AK!