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Web Survey Bibliography

Title Informal Learning in Virtual Communities. Individual Practice between Information Retrieval, Observation and Participation
Year 2009
Access date 17.08.2009

As informal learning in virtual social spaces is becoming more important, it is necessary to gain a deeper understanding about personal learning strategies to facilitate developing adequate supportive educational scenarios.

Those users of virtual web-based communities who read messages from other users, but do not or rarely post messages themselves are commonly referred to as non-posters or lurkers. Informal learning in virtual communities is usually modelled according to Wenger’s concept of “Communities of Practice”. Although Wenger sees different participation levels and trajectories, focus of educational research is mostly on legitimate peripheral participation as a path to full active membership. In this perspective, learning processes are closely related to active participation and lurking is hardly ever considered to be a legitimate personal learning strategy. Thus, lurkers are generally ignored by educational research, although they constitute the majority of users in mailing lists and message boards. The paper will present results of explorative case studies on individual lurking strategies and discuss to what degree the lurking strategies can be seen as having an impact on individual learning strategies.

Central questions for data collection and interpretation are:

•Which individual informational strategies of non-posters can be identified in regard to virtual communities?

•How do non-posters view their use of and participation in virtual communities in terms of information, learning and membership?

•How is the interplay between online and offline contacts, posting and lurking practices organized?

Each of the ten cases is represented by one person and includes different data sources: as semi-structured interviews, questionnaires on personal information environments, learning diaries and optional additional data like personal bookmarks or search histories. First results of the data analysis indicate that usage of virtual communities is seen as informal learning activity (non-posting as well as posting). Furthermore, a sense of community can exist without posting activities and is not necessarily connected to one online source but rather to a community of practice with several online and offline resources. Noticeable is also that very different approaches to and practices within virtual communities can be identified for different roles and contexts.

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Conference homepage (abstract)

Year of publication2009
Bibliographic typeConferences, workshops, tutorials, presentations
Full text availabilityAvailable on request

Web survey bibliography - General Online Research Conference (GOR) 2009 (54)

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