Courtesy Google AnalyticsLurkers, legitimate peripheral participants, silent participants, the silent majority and a host of other related descriptions can be used for about 99% of visitors to this blog.
They refer to people who come to Middle-earth, have a look round, never comment and may never come back. Examination of data in Google Analytics shows that these visitors live all over the world, in their thousands.
My intimate involvement, in many different ways, with teaching and elearning has developed within me a fascination for these visitors.
In elearning communities, the return visitors represent a vast, possibly unknown, untapped resource. And they appear to remain inaccessible.
Last year, in my more ignorant days as a beginner blogger, I spent a month in activities with the Comment Challenge trying to find out how to get these people to ‘engage’. It was the reason I took part in the Challenge, one that caused me disappointment that I didn't really learn much about lurkers; some learning in that area was to come later.
I often think of the supreme wealth of skill, knowledge and community that these visitors could bring, if only they participated.
Some researchers contend that these visitors do actually participate. Etienne Wenger considers them ‘legitimate peripheral participants’; Nonnecke and Preece refer to the ‘silent participants’. I have a different idea of the term participant, for it implies one who interacts, and interaction suggests contribution. But the visitors I refer to here, contribute only numbers to the data collected on my Google Analytics.
I don’t like the term ‘lurker’, and my principles don’t permit me to coin a new term here, even if I had one, as I believe there are enough terms already being used to describe these anonymous observers. So I stick with ‘lurker’.
The lurkers are major treasures when considering the potential contribution that they can make to elearning communities. But they can also be looked on as freeloaders who may benefit from the activities of the community, but who do not contribute to these.
Many bloggers study ways and means to improve engagement of visitors to their blogs. Their tactics involve attracting visitors through comments and links on other blogs, using catchy post titles, headings and labels and other data that are picked up on searches.
Once found by a visitor, the blog has attributes that have a quality that determines if its post content is read and if the visitor will come back later to read more. Bloggers work at improving this quality and many are accomplished in crafting this to a very high degree.
There have been hundreds of articles and posts published about what features make a great blog, and how to write a great post. Some bloggers devote a large portion of their writing time to this analysis.
Applicable in elearning:
As a teacher, passionate about the art of eteaching and elearning, I look on the opinion and effort of bloggers in their analysis as a superb abundance of information. If ever there were time and place for studying how to engage visitors in communities, it is now - in the blogosphere.
There is no finer environment for an eteacher to pick up ideas, tips, techniques and enthusiasm for encouraging learner engagement.
Relevant, interesting and engaging:
Whatever the message of the activity, it has to be interesting and relevant so that it permits the visitor to engage in discourse. With those elements there is greater likelihood that the visitor will return.
And it’s not necessary that teachers who are studying this specially need to study blogs expressly written about elearning. The same or similar practices that are successful in engaging visitors to a blog can be applied to engaging learners in elearning.
As Skellie says, “. . . immerse yourself in the work of world-class bloggers. Never stop watching and learning.”