Identifying Practices and Tools to Promote Newcomer Participation in Cyberlearning Environments



This is a NSF-funded collaborative research project by Dr Vandana Singh at University of Tennessee Knoxville and Dr Aditya Johri at Virginia Tech.  The research assistants on this project are Lila Holt and Sheeji Kathuria at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Raktim Mitra at Virginia Tech.  This collaborative proposal was granted by the Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) at the NSF in August 2009.   


Research from this project contributes to fundamental theory on newcomer participation in cyber learning environments as well as theory on how tools successfully mediate learner-teacher or novice-expert relationships.  Based on this analysis we can develop a cumulative profile of a successful newcomer and the characteristics that the successful newcomer exhibits. 


We have conducted an exploratory study on threads in online technical support forums for Mozilla Firefox, Java, and Koha to understand and classify practices used to facilitate newcomer entry and continued participation, as well as the building of a learning community.  We examined how newcomers seek help, how a successful newcomer integrates and learns in a community, and how the community guides them through this process.  We also conducted an in-depth analysis of the tools present on online communities that enhance or detract from the overall learning process for these newcomers. 

Call for participation:  The second phase of this research process entails surveying and interviewing users of online communities in order to further analyze how users of online support forums learn in these special environments.  A link to the survey is available here:  http://survey.utk.edu/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=FORUMLEARN

If you are a regular reader or contributor in online technical support forums and are interested in being interviewed please contact Dr. Vandana Singh (vandana at utk dot edu). 

Conferences and Publications

1.     Singh, V. and Kathuria, S. (2012) “What makes newcomer integration and learning possible in online Open Source Software Communities?” Computer Supported Cooperative Work 2012, ACM 2012 (under review after revise and resubmit)

2.     Singh, V. and Sheetija Kathuria “Newcomer Participation in Cyber learning Environments: Tools and Practices” Information and Software Technology. (Under review)

3.     Singh, V., Johri, A. and Mitra, R. (2011) Types of Newcomers In An Online Developer Community. Proceedings, Computer Supported Cooperative Work 2011, (Shanghai, China), ACM, 2011

4.     Mitra, R., Singh, V., and Johri A., (2011) Cyberlearning Ecosystem - Users, Technology and Tools. Proceedings, I-Conference, 2011, Seattle, Washington 2011

5.     Singh, V. & Johri, A. (2010). Newcomer Particiption in Cyberlearning Environments: Lessons from Open Source Communities. National Science Foundation Engineering Education Programs Awardees Conference. January 31- February 2, 2010.  Reston, Virginia.




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