Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 32 seconds

I’m not a fan of the “L” word- it’s a loaded term. First of all, nearly every time it is used, it is self applied as an individual, wrapped in some sort of apology that was not really asked for- how often do course organizers say, or those you suggest take up the space complain about all “lurkers” out there.

I frankly think we’d be better off not throwing the word around, especially in an open course where there are not given/enforced/required levels of participation. Open participants choose their level of participation, and using the “l” word puts out a message of not meeting an unstated participation level. And on idea of power laws of participation, I bet there are almost zero pure lurkers, there are people who choose a low amount of public participation. And you suggest, not only with “likes”/”favorites” there are other channels of participation people do/can do. It’s common, and i use it, to express someone as a direct/private message. That’s not lurking. Or just reading and pondering the ideas going on, to me that is more than lurking. Given what I have known and experienced about Kevin in other open courses, I cannot even take serious his framing himself a lurker. He un-lurked as soon as a he posted a blog post, and then whammo un-lurked via his comic.

Yeah, I do not believe total lurkers exist, so let’s just stop putting that label on ourselves.

Yes I know people feel apprehensive about being more active. Yes, they worry about criticism. But to me, open courses offer the perfect place to make small steps to take on challenging your normal modes. If you always do what is comfortable, or your preferred mode of being, if you do not take on some amount of tiny risk, chance, it leaves little room for growth. I always want to see my students try things they think they cannot do, in a way where the failing trying does not hurt. It’s the phrase I reach for always from UMW Prof Jeff McClurken who said “I want my students to be uncomfortable, but not paralyzed”– the learning happens most significantly when students break through that barrier of discomfort.

Yes the ecosystem is better with more participation by more people- but every little thing is a positive, and the “L” word flips that over with an un-necessary self applied expectation that there is judgement of what you are not doing. Let’s just stop using it.