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This study focusses on the role of highly active participants in online learning communities on Facebook. These people, often known as “power users” in the literature on social computing, are a common feature of a wide range of online learning groups, and are responsible not only for creating most of the content but also for getting discussion going and providing a basis for other’s participation. We test whether similar dynamics hold true in the context of online learning.
Based on a transactional dataset of almost 10,000 interactions with an online community of 32 postgraduate students who were following the same online course, we find evidence that power users also exist in the context of online learning. However, whilst they do create a lot of content, we find that they are not fundamental to keeping the group together, and in fact are less adept at creating content which generates responses than other “normal” users. This suggests that online learning communities may have different dynamics to other types of electronic community: it also suggests that design efforts should not be focused solely on attracting a small core of “power learners”. Rather, diverse types of users are needed for online learning communities to survive and prosper.
Cristóbal Cobo, Center for Research - Ceibal Foundation, Uruguay
Monica Bulger, Data & Society Research Institute, United States
Jonathan Bright, Oxford Internet Institute, United Kingdom
Ryan den Rooijen, Oxford Internet Institute, United Kingdom
Presented at the LINC Conference (MIT, 2016) Digital Inclusion: Transforming Education through Technology.