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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Web 2.0 Lessons Learned

Here are some lessons that I've learned concerning the building of a Web 2.0 community around wikis and blogs. My learning occured as I taught my class "Learning in 3D" this summer.

1. Don't Start with a Blank Slate
For the course, I created a structure within a wiki that included pages that were clearly marked for certain categories of content (links, basics, etc). The idea is to give the learners a place to input information, links and ideas within a pre-existing structure. Categories (aka web pages) give the learners structure and helps them overcome the "bank-page syndrome." I found students much more willing to contribute to the wiki when they had specific places to "put" things. For the blog, I would sometimes ask three questions I wanted students to answer on the blog. This gave them a start on their postings.

2. Seek Out Contributors Early
I had a number of students who wanted to work early on some of the projects so I gladly encouraged them and asked them to post their work on the wiki as soon as they had completed it even though the assignments were not due for another 4 weeks. This started off the contribution process and allowed others to see examples of what type of content was expected for the wiki. For the blog, I asked students to post their reactions to my posting to encourage dialogue.

3. Post Examples
This goes hand-in-hand with the recommendation above. Seek out examples of what is appropriate and standard for your wiki and then post it. This provides other potential contributors with guidance and examples to help them know what to post.

4. Remind Learners to Contribute
I was constantly sending emails, making announcements in our virtual classroom and responding to emails with "why don't you post this on the wiki."

5. Guidance Doesn't Mean Strict Rules
While I gave examples and asked questions to spark engagement, I did not reprimand or scold anyone who was seemingly off-target. I am sure that it is necessary at times but for the most part, the tangents were related to the main topic and added rich new information and insights to the discussions. I didn't want to restrict "free association" or "stream of conscious" postings.

6. Don't Expect Everyone to "Get Into It"
Some people are not happy contributing to the Web 2.0 community that has been created, they like to lurk or they don't want to be too involved. You can't force involvement in a don't try. You can give gentle reminders but forcing participation is not good for the community or for the person forced to contribute. On the same token, you are going to have a few people who are "way" into contributing. Let them add to the community and, you will notice, others will play off of their entries. They will become leaders of certain aspects of the community...this is a good thing. A community should not be led by one person, it should be led by many.

7. Utilize the Insights of Others
Several people not in my original class this summer contributed wonderful ideas and insights into the content. Encourage people not "officially" in a group to comment. Let sales folks comment on your R&D blog. You might not get a lot of outside posts but when you do get an "outside" post, it will certainly add value and may take you down a path previously not considered.

8. Celebrate the Growth of the Community
A couple of times on this blog, I noted the achievements of the students who created the machinimia projects and posted them on YouTube and TeacherTube, that, in turn, gave those machinimia project even more visibility and views. If you have content that is especially worthy of recognition, make sure you promote it and make it visible so others can benefit.

9. Mix Experienced and Inexperienced Learners
In the wiki we developed for class, alumni were asked to provide input as well as the students currently enrolled in the class. This allowed the students to ask questions that really made the alumni think and allowed the alumni to share their knowledge with the students. It was a great transfer of knowledge between groups. Exposing experienced people to inexperienced people forces them to think through fundamentals and knowledge they sometimes take for granted.

Well, that is my short list of Web 2.0 Lessons learned...please take a moment to add your own lessons or idea about building and maintaining a Web 2.0 community.

Going to an online university in order to get yourself your degree is a choice some people make so they can get an online MBA around their own schedule. As more and more colleges off online degree programs the choice of online college degrees increases every year.

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Bart said...

Good stuff. I hope after my inaugural teaching semester I'll have a few good insights to post.

The gist of my class is basically "how to be a good web producer and consumer" which involves diving into LOTS of web 2.0 applications, philosophies, and trends.

I'm using a blog as the centerpiece of the course:

A quick look at the not-yet-complete syllabus:

Should be an interesting ride...

Bart said...

Bah, blogger clipped the URL for the syllabus

try this

Stan Yann said...

I really enjoyed the first Second Life class. The most important thing I learned in the class is that you need to focus on the things you can't do in real life in order for 3-D Learning to be meaningful, relevant, and successful.