Why do we care about engaging online?

Nancy White thinks that engagement in any community is on a spectrum from active participation in a group to internal reflection in a subtle and often invisible way. It can be with people or with content and can have positive or negative nuances. We should care about engaging because that is how most of us learn either online or offline, so the next question is how can we encourage engagement online?

We can’t jettison our offline manners in an online environment. Many of these mores  still apply, such as addressing people by name, acknowledging or reciprocating contributions, asking good questions, rephrasing something that lacks clarity, varying media,  interspersing content and activities, and  modeling a good example of engagement.

There is nothing that can be assumed about other people in an online group. We have no non verbal cues to measure the progress of our interactions so silence may mean shyness, anger or a broken microphone. Each option requires a different strategy so the process of checking in becomes more frequent, particularly at the beginning of an online session. There are those people who are quicker online and their experiences are different from those members who participate less regularly and may feel a sense of being overwhelmed and abandoned by the moderator and rest of the group. If this persists, there may be a need to encourage fast posters to slow down and the late adopters to log on more often, otherwise the group may fracture.

I really like this article because it gives practical information about how to think about an online community, and implies that  individuals or subgroups can fragment the experience, and reminds us that community is not a holistic entity.  If there is a moderator, they require sophisticated communication skills to negotiate between the various ‘communities of interest’ within the group to ensure that each member learns something of value to them. Have you come across groups who successfully embrace early and late adopters? What do they do that is different from other groups that you have registered with?

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