Analyzing Online Behaviors, Roles, and Learning Communities via Online Discussions

Yu-Chu Yeh, Educational Technology & Society, Feb 24, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

According to this article, learning online in groups means knowing your place. Oh, I'm sure the authors wouldn't put it so bluntly. But it is difficult to read the following any other way: "group members must recognize their functional roles in knowledge-related activities, and each functional role requires a corresponding behavior in the processes of knowledge sharing and creation." And you see this perspective echoed in the typology of roles identified in the study. My favorite description is this: "Trouble-makers (R7): This role is composed of B9. These group members frequently caused problems that hindered the completion of group work via their absence from group discussions or inability to finish assigned work on time." And further, in the conclusion, "Among these roles, trouble-makers clearly hinder the formation and functioning of online learning communities. Unfortunately, this role typically exists in online learning communities, as the analytical findings in this study suggest." By contrast, the most important and constructive role, say the authors, is that of "opinion providers", which "seems to be the key role for distinguishing the active collaboration communities from the other communities."
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