Lurkers, who are also known as silent learners, observers, browsers, read-only participants, vicarious learners, free-riders, witness learners, or legitimate peripheral participants (our preferred term), tend to be hard to track in a course because of their near invisibility. We decided to address this issue and to examine the perceptions that lurkers have of their behaviour by looking at one specific online learning course: CLMOOC. In order to do this, we used a mixed methods approach and collected our data via social network analysis, online questionnaires, and observations, including definitions from the lurkers of what they thought lurking was. We then analysed the data by using social network and content analyses and interpreted the research findings using the concept Community of Practice, with the Pareto Principle used to delimit types of learner. Our research findings revealed that lurking is a complex behaviour, or set of behaviours, and there isn’t one sole reason why lurkers act the ways that they do in their respective communities. We concluded that for a more participatory community the more active, experienced or visible community members could develop strategies to encourage lurkers to become more active and to make the journey from the periphery to the core of the community.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.
1. Anderson C. (2004 October 1). The Long Tail. Wired Magazine. Wired [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html
2. Beaudoin M. (2003) Learning or Lurking? Tracking the ‘Invisible’ Online Student. In U. Bernath & E. Rubin (Eds.) Reflections on Teaching and Learning in an Online Master Program - A Case Study (pp. 121-130). Retrieved from https://www.unioldenburg\de/fileadmin/user_upload/c3l/master/mde/download/asfvolume6_ebook.pdf
3. Creswell J. W. (2012). Educational Research: Planning Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. Pearson.
4. Dennen V. P. (2008). Pedagogical lurking: Student engagement in non-posting discussion behavior. Computers in Human Behavior 24(4) 1624-1633.
6. Egan C. Jefferies A. & Johal J. (2006). Providing fine-grained feedback within an on-line learning system - identifying the workers from the Lurkers and the Shirkers. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning 4(1) 15-24.
7. Farzan R. DiMicco J. M. & Brownholtz B. (2010) Mobilizing Lurkers with a Targeted Task. Proceedings of the 4th International lAAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM ‘10).
8. Fritsch H. (1997). Host contacted waiting for reply. Final report and documentation of the virtual seminar for professional development in distance education. Oldenburg: Bibliotecks und Informationssystems der Universitat Oldenburg (Virtual seminar held January -March).
9. Gourlay L. (2015). ‘Student engagement’ and the tyranny of participation. Teaching in Higher Education 20(4) 402-411. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2015.1020784
10. Hagel J. & Arthur A. (1997). Net gain: Expanding markets through virtual communities. Boston MA: Harvard Business School Press.
11. Hill P. (2013 March 10). Emerging Student Patterns in MOOCs: A (Revised) Graphical View. E-Literate [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://mfeldstein.com/emerging-studentpatterns- in-moocs-a-revised-graphical-view/
12. Hrastinski S. (2008). What is online learner participation? A literature review. Computrs & Education 51(4) 1755-1765.
13. Hrastinski S. (2009). A theory of online learning as online participation. Computers & Education 52(1) 78-82.
14. Juran J. M. (1975). The non-Pareto principle; mea culpa. Quality Progress 8(5) 8-9.
15. Kizilcec R. F. Piech C. & Schneider E. (2013) Deconstructing Disengagement: Analyzing Learner Subpopulations in Massive Open Online Courses. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge-LAK’13 170-179. ACM New York.
16. Kollock P. & Smith M. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic social and cross-cultural perspectives. In S. Herring (Ed.) Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
17. Lave J. & Wenger E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press.
18. Lave J. & Wenger E. (2002). Legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. In R. Harrison & F. Reeve (Eds.) Supporting lifelong learning: perspectives in learning (pp. 111-126). Psychology Press.
19. Lee J. & McKendree J. (1999). Learning vicariously in a distributed environment. Active Learning 10 4-9.
20. Merriam-Webster Dictionary The (n.d.). Lurk. Retrieved from http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/lurk
21. McDonald J. (2003). Let’s get more positive about the term ‘lurker’ - CPSquare Class Project. Retrieved from http://www.cpsquare.org
22. Munzel A. & Kunz W. H. (2014). Creators multipliers and lurkers: who contributes and who benefits at online review sites. Journal of Service Management 25(1) 49-74. doi 10.1108/JOSM-04-2013-0115
23. NetLingo (n.d). Lurkers. Retrieved from http://www.netlingo.com/dictionary/l.php
24. Nielsen J. (2006 October 9). Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. Nielsen Norman Group [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.nngroup.com/articles/participation-inequality/
25. Nonnecke B. & Preece J. (2001). Why lurkers lurk. Paper presented at the Americas Conference on Information Systems Boston.
26. Nonnecke B. Preece J. & Andrews D. (2004). What lurkers and posters think of each other. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 195-203. IEEE Computer Society.
27. Preece J. Nonnecke B. & Andrews D. (2004). The top 5 reasons for lurking: Improving community experiences for everyone. Computers in Human Behavior 20(2) 201-223.
28. Rafaeli S. Ravid G. & Soroka V. (2004). De-lurking in virtual communities: A social communication network approach to measuring the effects of social and cultural capital. Proceedings of the 37th Hawaii International conference on System Science.
29. Ridings C. Gefen D. & Arinze. B. (2006). Psychological barriers: Lurker and Poster motivation and behavior in online communities. Communications of the Association for Information Systems 18 329-354.
30. Salmon G. (2002). E-tivities the key to active online learning. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education 4(1).
31. Sun N. Rau P. P. L. & Ma L. (2014). Understanding lurkers in online communities: A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior 38 110-117.
32. Sweeney J. W. (1973). An experimental investigation of the free-rider problem. Social Science Research 2(2) 277-292.
33. Waite M. Mackness J. Roberts G. & Lovegrove E. (2013). Liminal participants and skilled orienteers: Learner participation in a MOOC for new lecturers. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 9(2) 200-2015.
34. Walker B. Redmond J. & Lengyel A. (2010). Are They All the Same? Lurkers and Posters on The Net. eCULTURE 3(1) 155-165.
35. de Waard I. Koutropoulos A. Özdamar Keskin N. Abajian S. C. Hogue R. Rodriguez C.O. & Gallagher M. S. (2011). Exploring the MOOC format as a pedagogical approach for mLearning. Proceedings of mLearn 2011 Beijing China.
36. Wenger E. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning meaning and identity. Cambridge University Press.
37. Williams B. (2004). Participation in on-line courses - how essential is it? Educational Technology & Society 7(2) 1-8.