#PLENK2010 Why are people staying away from the forum?

Thanks for sharing from Ken.  I may have enough of “forum” now, so better to spend time researching & blogging.

I notice a trend in the MOOC in that many “experts” and knowledgeable others are moving away from forum, for reasons that have been shared by many in their postings – with George and Stephen in particular, where reflective learning could be perceived as more valuable, especially when they are using the blogs.  I do think this trend is obvious for many scholars and academic experts now, and that may impact on the use LMS and online Moodle forum in educational institutions, especially when novice & experts are both staying away from the LMS after a brief stay……

So, what might be the reasons for people sharing in the forum at the start?

Here is my experience & findings from previous research:

The reasons why people like to use the forum include:

(a) sharing and filtering of ideas, artifacts and having debates in forum (discourse)

(b) having a central place for discussion, and an aggregation of ideas, artifacts

(c) fostering of group formation and collaborative learning through inquiry

(d) lurking (legitimate peripheral learning) or self-directed learning

(e) understanding of other learners’ views and perspectives through posting of questions or responses

(f) developing relationship with others through engagement, interaction and communication

There are however, many barriers that have hindered the forum discussion

So, why are people staying away from the forum in PLENK?  Would these include?

(a) perceived power and control amongst participants.  Would this be perceived as an arena for “Socratic questioning”?

(b) strong or cynical (perceived negative) views, posts, comments or responses that may be perceived by participants.  Would this lead to uncomfortable feelings for others to respond?

(c) language barriers amongst participants

(d) topics or posts not relevant to participants interests

(e) overwhelming information and difficulties in comprehending the discussion threads, which could cause the “forum fatigue syndrome”

(f) a loss of interests in the discussion

(g) participants perception of discussion being a very serious academic discourse

(h) lack of fun

(i) What is in it for me (WIIIFM) in the discussion, debates or discourse

And the list goes on….

You name it…..

The  above are just my re-collection of some of the past experiences in Forum discussions (including social networking, and MOOC).

Does it mean that PLE/N is now winning over LMS in this round of PLENK?  I think many PLENKERS are now drivers on the PLENK….

How about your experiences and views?


9 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Why are people staying away from the forum?

  1. For me it’s been the other way. Less blogging more engaging in the forums. Despite The Daily, the forum has for me turned out to be the easiest way to keep up to date. If PLENKERS are indeed leaving the forums, and the numbers that George published in his talk last week would seem to support that view, then the discourse is the poorer for it. However, unless people are not using the PLENK tag, there doesn’t seem to be much activity in the blogosphere either. So perhaps the PLENK community itself is withering on the vine. Maybe there are only a handful of us left, playing in smaller and smaller sand pits.

  2. Hi Chris,
    So you have enjoyed forum, and that has been more engaging for you, isn’t it nice? “Maybe there are only a handful of us left, playing in smaller and smaller sand pits.” What might be the reasons? We may need to study the learning analytics to reveal the trend and analyse both the blogosphere and forum.
    Thanks for sharing your insights.

  3. Hello there John,
    I agree with many of your observations. I would like to add my own to the mix.
    1. responsibility – I participated in the forums initially because I was new to MOOCing and thought that was the expectation. I wanted to pull my weight. One thing that has always intrigued me, and I’ve labelled it as the ‘informed silence’ factor is the number of reflective, informed free thinkers whose voice has been absent from the discussions e.g Glen Gatin and Alan Levine. Then again, I’m currently teaching only 3 days each week, so I suspect I have much more free time to engage in this medium than they, and they’re probably hearing nothing new !

    2. Lack of disclosure – Another issue that disappoints me is the reticence of some contributors to create honest profiles . What purpose is served by somebody labelling themself as ‘societal nuisance’ even though it may be ‘tongue in cheek’ . This is the only time I have ever used my RL name or photograph on the web because I felt I would otherwise lack professional credibility. To date I’ve maintained anonymity behind gravatars and pseudonyms for security, personal and professional privacy reasons, and I will continue to do so. I’ve never been a ‘networker’, but a solo traveller on my own voyage, and my personality type preferences have always been high on the introverted, intuitive scale. My interaction on this forum has been completely at odds with how I respond in a typical social setting.

    3. agendas – my agenda was to learn about learning and to learn. I would suggest some agendas are far more complex

    4. altruism/reciprocity- only small patches are evident, and the same small band of people ‘come to the party’. I am surprised to find this to be the case in a collaborative environment

    5. The ‘guinea pig factor’-apart from Rita, Stephen, Dave and George, it annoys me that there are others in the background unnanounced and non contributing, who will use what they have observed to push their own academic wheelbarrows once the course is completed.

    6. Repetition of content

    7. Predominance of ‘teacher related stuff’ – many Plenkers are from other professions and it must be somewhat boring when the focus shifts to what must appear to be the minutae of pedagogic practices.

    8. Jackhammering – I’m tiring of those who jackhammer questions at ‘posters’. As a reflective teacher I welcome questions when there’s give and take but a battery of questions with no corresponding personal disclosure is an interrogation and not a discussion, and I no longer have the energy or inclination to be merely a catalyst for Socratic skill practice.

    9. Social Media fatigue- I agree with this one in a big way – I heartily admire the enthusiasm of people such as Chris Jobling, Julia and Linn who appear to be infectious optimists. They have given so much of themselves for the collective good and this has been for me a heartening positive aspect of this course-to have proof that some networks can be truly stimulating and healthy . Like the Musketeers – all for one and one for all !!!

    I believe I will be gravitating more towards my blog after this week as it’s been much neglected and I have so much to reflect on and write about, and I’m one of those societal weirdos who writes for myself, not others. The reasons are too complex, but it’s as it is. I will definitely read the postings, but probably will refrain from commenting. Having said all this, I’m still loving the journey and continuing to learn.

  4. Hi Susan,
    Love to hear your views, so reflective and thus adding more insights into the mix. You are not alone: “solo traveller on my own voyage, and my personality type preferences have always been high on the introverted, intuitive scale.” I am by very nature introverted at work, and so would prefer to share and learn in a PLE/N that works.
    It is good to share some up-beating optimism around and I resonate with yours: “I heartily admire the enthusiasm of people such as Chris Jobling, Julia and Linn who appear to be infectious optimists” and that include you and few others…
    Glad to hear that you are still loving the journey. So I hope we would continue our wonderful connections and interaction for the rest…
    Thanks again for your comments. Another gift 🙂

  5. Hi John. As you know, there is a large drop-off in participation in MOOCs during these courses, including reduction in both forum and blog activity. I don’t think it is accurate to suggest that this drop-off is sounding the death-knell of LMSs. I wonder if the drop-off is case-specific, i.e. the large initial interest in MOOCs evaporates rapidly turning these courses in SOOCs, as we have discussed previously. You also know my view on the use of avatars, old philosphers etc. but here is the link again for those (like Susan/Chris) who may not have this information:


    Best Wishes,

  6. Community online is hard work that takes incremental nurturing every day for years. I learned this back in the ’90s running an online media site.
    Given that as a PLENK group we have only been around 8 weeks, I am not surprised that the visible community in tweets, forum posts, and blog entries has dwindled. The host factor is missing. George, Stephen, and Rita have popped in occasionally to start a forum post, but there hasn’t been that careful care and feeding by a host on and interacting daily.

    A host is more easily followed – us, as participants, talking among ourselves without the host gives the lurker less impetus to join in. The lurker questions: “Is this particular discussion really relevant to what I am attempting to get out of the course?” whereas a conversation hosted by a facilitator gives de facto assurance that the discussion has some relevance to the course.

    I agree with Susan’s Point 5 – I hadn’t really realized initially how much of a glass cage we PLENKers are in. I guess I thought we were more a bit to and for ourselves and our learning. Now I’m a bit skeeved out as I’ve been putting some pretty out-there stuff up as I try to think through the ideas presented. I don’t mind sharing my ideas, but I’m not down with my ideas going into someone else’s dissertation or being an “example”. I think that stirs up the rebel in me – “I’m not doing the thinking here to advance whatever your agenda is, down with agendas!” Fully admit that’s a bit immature on my part, but there you go.

    I also realized that the blog is really working better for a history of my interaction with the course. For instance, Chris’s forum post on knowledge and George’s forum post on how do you manage it got me thinking and I posted a lengthy reply. Then I realized I really should have posted that to my blog since now there will be a hole there in my history of how I’m working through the learning.

    What I have enjoyed very much is interacting with all of you and being able to talk about something most people find highly esoteric with other good minds. So thank you!

  7. Well hello there Ken,
    I hadn’t read your post about your battle with MPD ! However I had recognised you as Old Socs, not Kant (after all , Kant can’t ) and I won’t say what form my fun has taken but creepily, we may be more alike that either of us recognises, however I do believe we’re motivated by differing personality traits. BTW, I much prefer you as the Jester. Old Socs lost all credibility for me when he whined about being a lowly student. You must summon your other alter egos to the mix before the course finishes. Have you considered writing from a different gender/personality perspective ? That’s truly liberating !
    Back to John’s discussion —- I think I would interact very differently the second time around (at least forumwise) John. I’ve always steered clear of networking in the past, particularly ftf – can’t bear the b—-s—- and mutual back scratching.

    I believe there is another factor to consider :
    10. The jaded participant factor – people who’ve run this road before, have heard it all before, and currently, have nothing better to do. Initially, I spent a lot of time perfecting Moodle/Forum navigation and the rest of the basics. Next time I would know what sort of posts to initiate in the first instance – ‘howtos’ for newbies and those who may not feel comfortable in the new environment. This course cost me nothing other than time, so I value the honest transparent posts of people like JG Chesney, and I agree with her comment about ‘stirring up the rebel’. I’ve learnt heaps from my participation in this course, but my life and professional perspectives are pretty much unaltered. I had no initial perspective on networks. I now view a healthy network as a haven for ‘seekers’ – those who may be frustrated by fighting the good fight against professional complacency and ‘sameness’ in the real world and look further afield for a sign that they are more than a lone voice in the wilderness. It isn’t the readings alone that have provided me with this sustenance, it’s recognising others who still have the fight in them and observing their battle strategies. Paying it forward is only fair !

  8. Hi Susan,
    Wonderful to learn your views. “Next time I would know what sort of posts to initiate in the first instance – ‘howtos’ for newbies and those who may not feel comfortable in the new environment.” Yes, it is not easy for newbies. Nice to know that you have learnt a lot from the participation in the course.

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