OMD/MPII/MP Paper II
Primal Needs Gone Digital: Educators' Motivations in an Open Wiki Environment
Fisher, Randy S. (2009). Primal Needs Gone Digital: Educators' Motivations in an Open Wiki Environment. Masters Project Paper, Fielding Graduate University, Master’s Program in Organizational Management and Development, Santa Barbara, California. Published in Public Domain wiki http://www.wikieducator.org/OMD/MPII/MP_Paper_II
Wiki skills training in educational institutions will motivate people to contribute in an open learning community.
Pioneering educator-authors are self-organizing and contributing their energies and talents and approaches to developing Open Education Resource (OERs) projects and the global, open source WikiEducator Community. In this thought experiment, NZ-based Otago Polytechnic, has embraced WikiEducator as its collaborative OER development platform. Otago's leadership aims to increase productivity and performance by understanding the dynamics of motivated self-interest and educators' need for power, achievement and and/or affiliation, in a complex, self-organizing ecosystem.
collaboration, community, complexity, education, *motivational needs, open-source, organizational change, *self-organization, *wiki
Babbie, Earl. (2005). The practice of social research. Eighth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Lamb, Brian. (2004). "Wide Open Spaces: Wiki, Ready or Not", in EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 39, no. 5 (September/October 2004): 36-48. Retrieved December 6, 2008 from http://connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/WideOpenSpacesWikisReadyo/40498?time=1226076078.
Mclelland, David C. And Michael Burnham (1976). Power is the Great Motivator, Best of Harvard Business Review: Motivating People (2003).
Raymond, Eric S. (2000). The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Version 3.0 Thyrsus Enterprises .
Webb, Eugene J. [et al.] (2000). Unobtrusive measures. Rev. Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. (Originally published 1966, as Unobtrusive measures" Nonreactive research in the social sciences. Chicago, Rand McNally).
WikiEducator Statistics Reports (Tables & Charts). (2008). Retrieved December 5, 2008 from http://wikieducator.org/stats/reports/.
WikiEducator Strategy and Timeline: Quick Facts and Highlights. (2008). Retrieved December 2, 2008 from [http://www.wikieducator.org/WikiEducator:About#Quick_facts_and_highlights.
INTRODUCTION — A Bold Vision for Sustainable Digital Futures
The phenomenal success of Wikipedia has turned the tables on traditional economic and business models which suggest that most people will only do serious and useful work when they are paid at the highest market rate. In Wikipedia and WikiEducator (WE), there are many examples where highly-competent educator-authors have contributed their time, talent and resources for seemingly less-than market rates of compensation ~ financial or otherwise. Indeed, a vast majority of WE educator-authors receive financial compensation from educational institutions as a condition of their employment/service. Intrinsically-motivated, they also derive a great deal of satisfaction, happiness and pride for meaningfully contributing to a values-based community. (Lane, 1991)
Increasingly, a small, growing cluster of educator-authors perceive WE as a place to jump-start their own projects and collaborations, for activities required in their job descriptions. Regardless of where the work takes place (i.e., on- or or off-wiki), educator-authors have a professional responsibility to develop, update and revise their learning materials (i.e., course outlines, syllabus, handouts, media, learning activities, formative reviews) to reflect changing events and societal conditions, local and cultural contexts and teaching innovations.
On an individual, self-managing basis, these educator-authors are choosing to do something: to develop open education content on WE to satisfy their own needs for power, achievement and/or affiliation. (Mclelland, 1976) They are able to control their own destiny with a freedom to experiment and learn, succeed and fail, and share their experiences openly serving their private and professional interests. Of course, their employers may or may not support these expressions.
There is a palpable energy as Wiki Educators collectively work on projects of shared interest. Wiki skills facilitators can 'feel' the flow of dynamic intellectual and physical energy, through an accelerated cycle of collaboration, experimentation and reflection in a supportive environment, and do their part to seed individual creativity and connection, innovation and transformation.
Otago Polytechnic, is a tertiary education institution in Dunedin, NZ and global leader in open source education due to its progressive IP policy. (Blackall, 2007). Managers are observing their peers embrace and adopt WE as an OER development platform driven by a mix of motivational needs expressed by power, achievement or affiliation. Of significance, are interests in:
- thought leadership
- interdisciplinary collaboration (i.e., across silos, and among faculty, learning designers and management)
- curricula development savings and efficiencies
- increasing student enrollment
- quality issues.
Increasingly, Otago's managers are seeing wiki skills training as an important first step in understanding the dynamic cycle of individual motivation and wiki production in a complex and self-organizing environment. They are also discovering ways to facilitate participatory learning, reduce internal resistance and increase wiki contributions among Otago stakeholders, to achieve a higher return on investment.
The Wiki-Way: Continuous Improvement
Serendipitously in April 2007, I attended WikiEducator's 1st Tectonic Shift Think Tank Conference, at the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver, Canada. As a facilitator/community-builder, I raised the issue of community-development, talent attraction and retention, and project lifecycle growth and sustainability. (Several months later, I was contracted to conduct a community needs analysis and facilitate community development. In 2008, I was elected to WE's 1st governing Community Council.)
As a wiki skills facilitator, I observed that New Users were dropping off rapidly, despite an initial high levels of enthusiasm about the promise of open education and distributed learning communities. This was a serious flaw in the WE model, and mitigated against early wins, higher completion rates and better learner outcomes, and future adoption by educational institutions.
In researching this problem, learners' and facilitators' public and private correspondence was analyzed, and learners' lack of self-confidence, anxiety and frustration was observed. New Users felt, when engaging with WE, confused and powerless, and this affected their behavior, motivation, performance and contributions.
WE's future growth and sustainability depends on converting New Users into "Active Contributors". These are formal or informal educators who:
- support WE's objectives and the values behind and free software and cultural works
- contribute content on WE with 100+ edits per month
- participate in learning communities
- support the forces of self-organization within educational institutions to achieve mutual goals and objectives.
As a result, the 10-day wiki skills workshop was redesigned, to focus on basic skills development over a 5-day period, and an easier transition in the open wiki environment.
Research Design and Data Collection
The research design for this thought experiment is an intervention to measure Educators' motivation to contribute in an open learning community at Otago Polytechnic, a tertiary educational institution in New Zealand, which has adopted WikiEducator as a platform for the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs).
The intervention consists of five (5) day, online wiki skills training workshop based on prior learner and facilitator. This five (5) day workshop is a revised version of the original 10-day, online wiki skills training workshop. Data from the intervention, will be measured using Content Analysis and Unobtrusive Measures (Webb, 2000) pre-, during, and post-intervention. Contribution is defined as Wiki Educators who create, edit and/or revise educational content on the open wiki, whether it is on WikiEducator or Otago's sub-domain wiki (i.e., WE/Otago).
The Content Analysis and Unobtrusive Measures were chosen because of the open nature of the wiki and its supportive learning community. All group communications are public and open, and before, during and after the wiki skills training, learners are encouraged to freely express what they think or are concerned with. Moreover, the software which powers WikiEducator uses 'scripts' to identify historical activity in the wiki. This data can be easily collected, analyzed and cross-referenced according to wide range of useful criteria.
For the purposes of this paper, when an educator has learned wiki skills, s/he is referred to as a Wiki Educator, regardless of his/her level of contribution activity.
CHAPTER TWO — CONCEPT REVIEW (1): THE OPEN WIKI ENVIRONMENT (WikiEducator)
WE is a global education project (supported by the Commonwealth of Learning) and open wiki environment for the development of a free and open education curriculum by 2015, in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goals. It is also a complex and self-organizing community intended for the collaborative planning of education projects linked with the development of free content; development of free content on WikiEducator for e-learning; building of capacity and sustainable communities of support for educators; work on building open education resources (OERs) on how to create OERs; and networking on funding proposals developed as free content. WE is a response to business and education models that can neither accommodate nor scale cost-effectively to meet the global demands for affordable and universal education.
"There is something fundamentally wrong with our world considering that the majority of our children will not be going to school. Consider, for example, that in Sub-Saharan Africa, 76% of the children in the age group for the last three years of high school will not have the privilege of attending school. We do not have enough money to train the teachers or build the classrooms needed to achieve universal secondary education." (Wayne Mackintosh begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting, 2007)
Since February 14, 2006 (Valentine's Day) WE's registered user base has grown steadily from 1 user to 8,500+ users, 7,500+ unique visitors per day, is among the world's top 103,000 websites with a one-day traffic rank of 52,701 (March 30, 2009). (Alexa, 2009) Frequent surveys of new account holders report that a majority of users join the WE learning community because they are educators, and wish to use, test and evaluate new technologies, and apply them to their personal learning and professional activities.
WE is a community of educators rather than a general public wiki: 73% of our registered users are teachers. lecturers and trainers working in the formal education sector. As educators our needs are more focused on educational priorities within the day-to-day operation of educational institutions which are not necessarily the same as those of a general public project. (Mackintosh, 2008)
In 2007, WE was hailed as the ‘Best Educational Wiki’ by E-Learning opinion leader Stephen Downes. (Downes, 2007) WE also secured a $100K grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for the largest wiki skills training initiative on the planet (i.e., Learning4Content (L4C), whereby free wiki skills training to individuals is provided for a contribution of one (1) lesson or learning activity created as free content on WikiEducator.)
As of July 1, 2009, WE will become the flagship initiative of a new International Center for Open Education / OER Foundation, moving from its nesting place at the Commonwealth of Learning. A key part of its mandate will be to support educational institutions in using WikiEducator as an internal and collaborative OER development platform.
Open, Complex, Self-Organizing Ecosystem
WE as a complex adaptive ecosystem is characterized by mutual causality, circular patterns of interaction, and positive-negative feedback loops that allow it to engage in its own organic evolution, differentiation and transformation. (Morgan, 2006, p. 266).
It's also a living example of an open, self-organizing ecosystem within a larger open self-organizing ecosystem. There is a supportive yet arms-length relationship between WE and the WikiMedia Foundation (i.e., home of Mediawiki software which powers WikiEducator, Wikipedia and thousands of other wikis). WE project founder, Dr. Wayne Mackintosh sits on the International Advisory Board of the Wikimedia Foundation. Erik Moeller, Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, and co-author of the Free Cultural Works Definition with Benjamin Mako Hill, sits on WE's governing Community Council.
Otago Wiki Educators (i.e., faculty, learning designers, managers/executives) are motivated to develop content according to three kinds of motivation (i.e., power, achievement, affiliation) in line with their professional interests and priorities. They do so as: (1) individuals; (2) a dyad, small cluster or larger group of authors from one or more departments; and/or (3) a cross-disciplinary group of authors in one or multiple locations, who have self-organized or have been appointed to work together on a project.
Free and Open Source Software
WE uses a free and open source software to 'bridge-the-digital divide'. Mediawiki's simple graphical user interface (GUI) and powerful functionality allows multiple authors to develop and collaborate on the development of open educational content. This is achieved via specialized knowledge of the the underlying wiki language or 'wiki syntax'.
The advocates of free and open software contend that the Mediawiki software is an open and viable network of connections, relationships and content. Unlike proprietary software providers such as Microsoft and Apple, the Mediawiki programming code is ‘open’ and can be hacked and tinkered with, to improve its functioning, robustness and scalability, leading Mackintosh to declare: “The free knowledge community now has the tools and processes to collaborate on a global scale in developing educational materials as a social good.” (Mackintosh, 2007). It also embodies an important source of dialectic tension which drives experimentation, risk-taking and innovation.
Conversely, many community members criticize WE for its rudimentary GUI and lack of WYSIWYG interface (i.e., What You See Is What You Get) which forces users to learn technical skills to contribute content to the wiki. They contend that this hinders motivation, creates resistance, and mitigates against faster individual and institutional adoption and use. Other members find it ironic that while university lecturers complain about learning Mediawiki syntax, they have no problem going to the library or bookstore to get a book on using Microsoft Word, despite the fact that they will only use a small number of its features. (Stampe, 2009)
Much of WE's success is rooted in the hacker-programmer ethos and adaptive culture described in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric Raymond's seminal work about the subversive qualities of developing (free and open source) Linux software.
“Linux overturned much of what I thought I knew (about software development). Linus Torvald’s style of development — release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity — came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here — rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches (aptly symbolized by the Linux archive sites), who’d take submissions from anyone) out of which a coherent and stable system could seeming emerge only by a succession of miracles.” (Raymond, 2000)
Other success factors include:
- A values-based community that subscribes to the Free Cultural Works definition
- Open and transparent community decision-making and communications (i.e., leading to trust)
- The Kiwi Cluster of NZ hacker-programmers and educators, a learning community embodying a pioneering spirit exemplified by the use of #8 gauge wire (used by lcoal farmers to solve any challenging problem), and similar to systems thinker Ibn Khaldun's asibaya (Hudson, 2000).
- Membership and participation in an open, self-organizing ecosystem
- No value judgments regarding content (i.e., one user has a page about dolphin hunting, another user has developed content on transgender issues)
- Open copyright licensing. All works on WE are licensed as Creative Commons-By-Attribution (CC-BY) or Creative-Commons-By-Attribution-Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA) without a non-commercial restriction.
A 'Work-in-Progress' Wiki Environment
While collaboration comes in many forms, there are few examples of actual collaboration by Wiki Educators on WE (i.e., more than two people contributing to a page or project). There is considerable anxiety and concern about this challenge to sustainability. WE Community members are continuously reminded that the wiki environment is a 'work-in-progress', and that this is in line with WE's strategy, and more collaboration is around the corner.
WE's Phase 3 Strategy (Sustainable implementation of free content in education (beginning January 2009) is a significant shift away from individual Wiki Educators per se, towards formal participation by educational institutions adopting WE as their OER content development platform. It builds on the critical mass developed in Phase 1 (Establishing foundations (May 2006 - Dec 2007); and Phase 2 (Scaling up free content development (Jan 2008 - Dec 2008), primarily by individual Wiki Educators and educational institutions working on pilot projects (i.e., Michigan State University, USA; Ohio State University (Center for Open and Sustainable Learning), USA; Penn State University, USA; University of Delhi (Gargi College), India; and the University of Education Winneba, Ghana). As of April 2009, Otago Polytechnic, NZ had the most productive output of any educational institution on WikiEducator.
Collaborative Peer Production Leads to Performance Improvement & Cost-Savings
As the dynamic cycle of collaboration increases, so does individual interest, performance and productivity. Wiki Educators, can 'sense' the energy' of their peers working together virtually, and supplemented by email notifications, instant messaging and voice-over-IP communications). This creates healthy and positive energy links, and helps them to achieve a specific task or objective. Above-the-surface, it can appear as positive interdependence and promotive interaction, where individuals encourage and facilitate each others' efforts to accomplish the groups goals. (Johnson & Johnson, 2006)
This is evocative of 'energetics', a discipline that combines quantum physics, chaos theory and ancient traditions, to identify hidden, below-the-surface forces within organizational interactions. Subtle energy impulses called 'thoughtforms' are sent to others, which unconsciously creates healthy or unhealthy energy links between people, and within groups and organizations. (Heorhiadi & Conbere, 2008, pp. 36-39).
Using a wiki environment can generate significant time/cost-savings in course development. Interviews with Active Contributors indicate a minimum 30 per cent increase in performance, rising to 50 per cent when they master advanced wiki techniques such as 'bucketing' (i.e., placing content in specific buckets that correspond to other course development activities); and even greater savings with a cluster of five (5) Active Contributors.
While course development / revision varies significantly among educational institutions (i.e., whether for-credit or continuing education (non-credit); bachelor’s level or graduate level (12 weeks/120 hours); the extent to which it incorporates pedagogy, media and participatory learning approaches; the author's knowledge and subject matter expertise; and the organization's reputation, standards, quality and budget. As Derek Chirnside of the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, NZ, says: “How long is a piece of string?”
For example, The University of Canterbury revises 10 per cent to 20 per cent of its courses annually and five (5) per cent are completely redeveloped due to changes in curriculum. The university uses the ADDIE Model of course development: (Needs) Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. In developing a Masters level course (12 weeks/120 credit hours) with a good set of learner outcomes; and the Wiki Educator's reasonable proficiency with the wiki environment, the course could be developed for $3,788.35 vs. $5,411.93, for a savings of $1,623.58.
Using a conservative estimate of 10 per cent of courses at a 1200-course educational institution requiring significant development / revision per year, a total savings of $184,329.55 was possible, delivering a return on investment of 28% per year. This includes an additional $10,500 to directly train 10 per cent of Wiki Educators in their organization to a WikiApprentice 2 level. The realized time/cost-savings also allows faculty, learning designers and management to deploy their talents elsewhere. (WikiEducator Project Numbers, 2009. Appendix A)
CHAPTER THREE — CONCEPT REVIEW (2): FREE WIKI SKILLS TRAINING (Learning4Content)
In 2007, the WE project received $100K from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and $60K from the Commonwealth of Learning for the Learning4Content training initiative. L4C helped develop English-language online tutorials for learning Mediawiki skills and provided support for facilitating online and face-to-face wiki skills training workshops for 2500 educators in 52 Commonwealth countries, over a 12-month period.
The L4C workshops have been deemed a great success as many educators around the globe have been introduced to open education, wiki skills and the wiki peer production model, and the Hewlett Foundation has extended the initiative until June 2009. There has been equal participation from make and female educators who have have contributed OERs and mentored and coached their peers. Otago's Active Contributors have helped build WE/Otago learning communities and acted as WikiAmbassadors for their projects and initiatives.
Original L4C Wiki Skills Training Model
The original L4C wiki skills workshop included:
- 10 days of online wiki skills training (45 min. per day) OR an in-country workshop (2 days, face-to-face)
- A dedicated Google Group (learning community), for instructional notices and all communications (with embedded links to WE)
- Learning Contracts (signed and dated)
- Facilitator support (asynchronous) - support provided by email
- Focus on development of "My Sandbox" (i.e., not a live User Page)
- Development of OER (i.e., lesson plan, learning activity)
- WikiBuddy Certification by Facilitator (when all requirements met)
The original L4C workshop model had many barriers which contributed to a high dropout rate and a low completion rate (<10%), which has negative implications for future contribution activity. Challenges included:
- An uneven registration/reminder process (people signed up and then forgot about the training)
- A complicated WE account registration and log-in
- Complicated tutorials
- Users' anxiety and frustration in not knowing where to begin
- Users' fatigue in learning communities (i.e., 50+ messages per day as learners introduced themselves)
- Users' unwillingness to read and/or respond to tutorial / facilitator instructions
- Users' inability to accurately describe what they experience
- Users' lack of time and patience
- Incomplete Learning Contracts (i.e., not signed, dated or returned)
- Asynchronous facilitator support via email
- Lack of supervisory and evaluation support for facilitators
- A jam-packed and fast-paced curriculum (i.e., people fell behind quickly)
- Questions about the relevance of open education content outside of work
- Cultural and linguistic differences in the workshop
- Varying levels of readiness, interest and motivation
Apprenticeship Model & Skills Certification
WE's WikiMaster Skills Development and Certification Framework was developed to create a tiered structure acknowledging individual achievements. The 'learn-by-doing' apprenticeship model incorporated peer recognition and certification for a new generation of skilled educators collaborating online to develop OERs. (WE WikiMaster, 2009)
Wiki skills facilitators were drawn from the WE ranks, and were required to attain a minimum level of proficiency (i.e., WikiArtisan, WikiTrainer, WikiMaster). During each workshop, they provided instructions and guidance, answered questions and modelled-the-way) acting as more of a mentor/coach, than an OD facilitator. Before leading a workshop on their own, many first-time L4C facilitators were required to co-facilitate with a senior L4C facilitator.
Like many first year teachers who are 'learning to teach', they would have appreciated more guidance, verbal support and encouragement from their supervisors and administrators and a clear understanding of expectations. This includes requests for private meetings, more interaction, learning and skills development (i.e., advanced WE skills, community-building, facilitation); the establishment of a learning community for facilitators; more positive reinforcement, and help with disruptive and non-completing and culturally-unique learners; procedures, planning and certification. (Marable & Raimondi, 2007, p. 34) However, as WE has limited funding from the Commonwealth of Learning (.8 FTE), a more robust supervisory and support system was not developed.
Wiki Educator Learning Communities
Learning communities (i.e., dedicated Google Discussion Groups plus open wiki backbone/repository) support participatory learning and engagement; satisfy motivational needs for achievement and affiliation; and mitigate cultural resistance by offering a forum for dialogue and information sharing. Users directly experience freedom and the power of their own numbers, magnified and amplified through technology, global networks, and a complex, self-organizing and social learning ecosystem.
The online workshops consistently drew 75+ educators from 30+ countries, with varying roles in formal or non-formal education. These included: faculty, learning designers and managers/executives. Face-to-face workshops drew approximately 20-25 educators, with attendees coming from the same country or its neighbors. Each cohort was connected to a dedicated L4C learning community where they shared information, challenges and interests in collaborative OER development. (Some Wiki Educators took the training two or three times to brush up their skills.)
After completing the workshop, learners were invited to join the main WE discussion group (learning community). This boost to WE's learning community creates a supply of freshly-motivated members and a reservoir of support within established educational institutions for ongoing projects and future initiatives.
CHAPTER FOUR — MOTIVATION THEORIES (Mclelland & Lane)
Compelling Motivational Needs
David Mclelland's elegant theory of human motivation is a useful foundation for explaining why Wiki Educators are motivated to provide their time, talent and resources in a complex work environment, applying his theory to many situations, including managerial motivation and effectiveness in large, complex bureaucracies. (Mclelland, 1976)
Mclelland focused on three needs underlying human motivation: (1) Need for Power: (2) Need for Achievement; and (3) Need for Affiliation. In an interesting web-world twist, another David Mclelland summarized these needs. (Mclelland, 2002)
- Need for Power (n-Pow) - the desire to control others, to influence their behavior, or to be responsible for others.
- Need for Achievement (n-Ach) - the desire to do something better or more efficiently to solve problems, or to master complex tasks
- Need for Affiliation (n-Aff) - the desire to establish and maintain friendly and warm relationships with others.
In Power is the Great Motivator (Mclelland & Burnham, 1976), the authors explore the relationship between motivation and managerial effectiveness for what constitutes a good manager. For Mclelland, a manager's motivation comes from the need for achievement, but an achievement-motivated manager is not necessarily in the best interests of the organization. The authors contend that top-level institutional managers who desire organizational clarity and effective management of their direct reports, require a high need for power and influence because they simply can't do every task or project by themselves. With power and influence comes the political clout, economic power and moral suasion to persuade subordinates, assign roles and responsibilities and delegate tasks in line with strategic and operational objectives.
Their research showed three kinds of managers:
- Institutional Managers = high in power motivation, low in affiliation motivation, and high in inhibition;
- Achievement (or Personal-Power) Managers = the need for power is higher than the need for affiliation but with a low inhibition score.
- Affiliative Managers = the need for affiliation is higher than the need for power
When first learning about WE, some Wiki Educators are motivated by n-Aff: they appreciate a new-found freedom grounded in personal values to help grow open education learning communities. (i.e., "I joined WikiEducator to connect, learn, share and help." (WikiEducator User:Jenniep, 2008) Closely connected are inner feelings of joy, satisfaction, pride and intrinsically-motivated behavior. (Lane, 1991).
Active Contributors who contribute to meaningful projects report their WE experiences as addictive, highly-motivating and extremely satisfying. This is in contrast to market economics that don't account for the fact that people are intrinsically-motivated and that intrinsic rewards are a large part of people’s happiness. “Working activities are the best agents of well-being...and the best sources of cognitive development, a sense of personal control, and self esteem available in economic life, better than a higher standard of living, and, I believe, better than what is offered by leisure,” (Lane, 1991, p. 335).
Leadership Roles and Reputation
In the open wiki, anyone can be a leader, and different people bring different and valuable knowledge, skills and abilities, often on a volunteer basis. WE roles are self-assigned depending on one's motivational need (n-Pow, n-Ach, n-Aff) and professional development interests, an exception being when individuals are contracted to perform specific tasks and/or projects. Otago has the power to place greater limits on who can lead and who must follow. Roles are a combination of self-assignment and delegation from a n-Pow manager or a n-Ach manager.
Approximately 12% of users achieve the status of 'Active Contributor' within WE, producing the lion's share of open educational content; building their WE identity and self-esteem through wiki skills mastery (i.e., a rite of passage); and openly contributing and sharing ideas and content, and going onto pursue leadership roles within the WE Community.
Content analysis of email/discussion group correspondence, external blogs and on-wiki content, from the elected members of the 1st WE Community Council, reveals tensions regarding differing roles, performance expectations, motivations and stressors (i.e., WE's most Active Contributors and project managers). (WikiEducator Top Contributors, 2008). Internal jockeying for power and influence can be compared to evidence of continuous community growth, skills, achievements, project starts and emerging collaboration. (WikiEducator Strategy & Timeline & Alexa, 2008)
Wiki Educators motivated by n-Pow appreciate the flexibility and power of the WE experience: "When we go off WE, it's like a dungeon. The forums are so controlled, you can't breathe." - Nellie Deutsch, Israel (November 2008)
Some of the most prolific Wiki Educators, primarily motivated by n-Pow, react strongly to WE's values-based commitment to 'open-source everything' (i.e., excluding the embedding of highly-functional 3rd party extensions such as YouTube), arguing that this decision limits greater adoption of WE, and internally at Otago. Google Group correspondence and blog posts rail at the lack of 'control' of software features; the absence of a user-friendly GUI; and 'one-size-fits-all' tutorials designed for the lowest common denominator of dial-up connections for Internet access in developing countries.
Content analysis of learners' feedback in wiki skills workshop mirrors many of these concerns. Despite a steep learning curve and confusing instructions, new users who complete the wiki skills training and observe and reflect on their progress, start to 'get' what WE is all about. (WikiEducator eL4C15, 2008). After completing the tutorials, Wiki Educators gain a stronger grasp for how they can use WE as a tool to effect change in their communities and educational institutions, whether as individuals, dyads, clusters or as an institution. (n-Pow)
Achievement & Affiliation
The WE Community is comprised of people with a high need for achievement (i.e., individuals who want to make a difference by accomplishing something). For many Otago educators working in a n-Ach/n-Aff profession, having access to 24/7 Community of Support is a 'game-changer', where they realize their personal and professional power in becoming n-Ach/n-Pow educators. Initial attraction to the WE Community is expressed as the need to 'connect, learn, share and help' (n-Ach / n-Aff) transforms to (n-Ach/n-Pow) as Newbies become Active Contributors, and they recognize exactly how powerful their new skills really are. Their excitement and confidence soars with the acquisition of new wiki skills and experiences, and amplifies throughout the WE Community. They seek new leadership roles on- and off-wiki, and experience a renewal of self-confidence.
CHAPTER FIVE — RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Effective Wiki Educators
There are two primary issues regarding what makes an effective Wiki Educator:
- Wiki Educators' confidence in their ability to use wiki skills
- Wiki Educators' understanding of how to operate in an open wiki culture
Point 1 deals with the palpable anxiety and stress faced by new Wiki Educators. Typically, they have a high level of excitement, interest and curiosity about accessing a global educational community, where they can share their talents and energies. Their excitement soon turns to frustration, anger and embarrassment when they encounter challenges they cannot solve. (i.e., a very tricky WE account registration process; confusing Mediawiki syntax; complicated instructions, often not in their mother tongue) Without immediate facilitator support, bridging or intervention (synchronous, near real-time), Newbies experience feelings of fight/flight, conflict avoidance and eventually drop out of the wiki skills training process and their respective WE learning community.
Point 2 deals with Wiki Educators' lack of awareness of wiki etiquette and the skills for successfully navigating within an open wiki environment. At Otago, Wiki Educators will have to learn appropriate behavior balancing open communications with institutional norms, values and expectations.
The following measures will help assess Wiki Educators' Effectiveness at Otago Polytechnic. They include the:
- Number of user accounts registered on WE
- Rate of conversion from new users to active contributors on WE
- Number, diversity and growth of active contributors on WE
1. Number of user accounts registered on WE
This measure is a clear indication of the number of educators actually putting WE through its paces. Registering an account on WE is an anonymous process; however, Otago's Wiki Educators will be aware of who their colleagues are, and their progress beyond account registration. Otago will have a dedicated space on WE and comprehensive web statistics and data will be available, based on WE's metadata and Otago's scripts/customizations.
An early indicator of user stress and anxiety will occur when Otago WikiApprentices begin populating their hyperlinked User Pages: using their new wiki skills to edit their pages with text, hyperlinks, images, and multimedia. Users' contributions can be viewed in real-time, including their feedback and interaction on the wiki and in learning communities.
2. Rate of conversion from new users to active contributors on WE
This measure shows that Wiki Educators are migrating from their 'Newbie' status to a more active role. An Active Contributor is an Otago Wiki Educator, with more than 100+ edits per month, who has completed the skill requirements associated with the WikiBuddy level which includes creating and inserting wiki-pedagogical templates; developing one lesson or content resource for WE; and adopting another user in the Otago WE community. This is equivalent to 75 edits over a 5-day period (in an L4C wiki skills workshop).
Otago Active Contributors will be engaged in organizational meetings and discussions (on- and off-wiki), starting new Otago projects, contributing to their colleagues' wiki pages and beginning to collaborate in an effective meaningful way. They will also be better positioned to understand the nuances of the wiki culture (i.e., how to exercise 'professional courtesy' with colleagues on-wiki); how to develop taxonomies and an organized structure on the wiki; and pool resources and knowledge in the Otago WE Community. They will begin to experience the aha's and insights associated with the wiki experience: just how powerful the software is, and how they can improve individual performance and productivity, and migrate to just-in-time learning without facilitator support.
Active Contributors will experience greater control over their performance; exhibit greater influence and leadership in their learning communities; and experience lower levels of stress and anxiety in the Otago WE Community. As the conversion rate increases, it is an important indication of the maturity of the Otago WE community and project development space, and an indicator of the potential for meaningful internal and external OER collaboration.
3. Number, diversity and growth of Active Contributors on WE
At the heart of a sustainable Otago Community of Wiki Educators, is the number, diversity and growth of Active Contributors. These outcome measures and associated timeline are indicators of a credible and maturing OER Community-of-Practice (and related sub-communities), increasingly attracting and retaining serious educators (who are concerned about peer review and program quality).
As Otago's OER wiki projects and communities evolve, Otago's Wiki Educators will gain a greater sense of their roles, power and influence and experience intrinsic rewards for their participation and contributions. They will be able to easily update and revise their learning materials, and publish them for small production runs, such as the groundbreaking OER Handbook for Educators V1.0, written and published entirely on WE. (Wiley, 2008) They will be able to confidently manage cost-effective project collaborations with like-minded Wiki Educators from other departments; increase their own effectiveness; and leverage Otago's OER leadership and experience nationally and globally. Otago's managers can make better use of Active Contributors by identifying where the wiki clustering activity occurs, and designing appropriate interventions for individuals to increase their motivation and performance. Managers can also help the cluster 'cross the chasm'— migrating from innovators and early adopters to the early- and late-majority. (Moore, 1991), and influence brother/sister clusters and learning communities.
This thought experiment focuses on discovering patterns that recur in different times and places (Babbie, 2005, p. 350) — namely, in public, recorded pronouncements and dialogue within open communities and sub-communities; online and off-line meetings; or on public fora such as the main WE/Otago Learning Community (i.e., the WE Mailing List, on Google Discussion Groups) or related Otago-specific learning communities or discussion groups. Additional communication occurs through email communications with attached documents and/or embedded hyperlinks to text, audio, video or other media.
As of April 16, 2009, the main WE Discussion Group on Google Groups had 539 members. It is the primary, open communications channel for WE member discussion. Public communications also occur directly on the wiki (i.e., talk/discussion pages where comments are inserted directly in response to pages of interest to users). These wiki pages use an open-source software to provide communications support for inter-individual and inter-project collaboration. Due to a lack of funding, the software has been been partially implemented. Users have been forced to go off-wiki to communicate, and this has compromised WE's use, adoption and growth.
This thought experiment also focuses on using unobtrusive measures (Webb, 2000) to research educators' motivations in the context of a public, online and rapidly-evolving wiki community. In reaching out to new Wiki Educators, the WE Community has developed and leveraged its messaging to appeal to different interests and motivations.
There are several primary ways to 'join' and contribute in WE's open learning community including:
- Registering an account on the WikiEducator website and creating, editing and revising pages and projects
- Joining the WE main discussion group (learning community)
- Joining a WE node and its learning community
- Registering for free wiki skills training in the context of the Learning4Content initiative.
- Writing about WE in an external blog, website, newspaper, or journal
Data can also be measured and cross-referenced using WE's/Otago's own statistics on User roles (on- and off-wiki), participation, contributions, revision history and community performance. Comparative and historical analyses is available by reviewing WE's/Otago's strategy and governance documents and policies, learning contracts, speeches and presentations, and observed participatory behaviors in line with organizational strategy, timeline and project growth. Automated tracking scripts have been developed to monitor activity in various community spaces and can be analyzed to determine who's doing what, when they're doing it, and what skills they are using whether individually or with assistance from others in their particular community-of-practice. (WikiEducator Community Media Statistics, 2008). WE's statistical tools can be used as a template for data-gathering by Otago for its wiki sites, nodes, projects and learning communities, and customized for its own measurement and reporting requirements.
Revised L4C Wiki Skills Training Model (The Intervention)
The Intervention, a revised wiki skills workshop (i.e., focusing on basic wiki skills, identifying high probability contributors and easing the transition into the wiki) was developed based on verbal, written and visual feedback from learners, users and facilitators.
The revised L4C wiki skills workshop includes:
- 5-days of online wiki skills training (45 min. per day)
- A day of rest and reflection after Day 2
- A dedicated Google Group (learning community) for course instructions (daily)
- An opportunity for learners to directly introduce themselves to other L4C participants
- A dedicated feedback page for direct wiki communications
- Modifying and clarifying the text and directions on the Account Created landing page to inform new Account Holders that they MUST Verify their Email Address (and to watch for an email from "WikiAdmin")
- Changing the default settings for all Accounts to include automatic WikiAdmin notifications when any page watched by a User is changed
- Learning Contracts (signed and dated)
- Facilitator support (synchronous) for Days 1 & 2 of each workshop for WE account registration and setup (i.e., support provided by phone, Skype chat or Instant Messaging)
- Facilitator support (asynchronous) from Days 3-5 and Closing Actions
- Facilitator introductions to educators within the larger WE Community, based on the learner's identified OER and collaborative interests.
- Focus on developing a User Page
- Development of an OER Pilot Project (relevant to learner's work activities)
- WikiApprentice Level 2 Certification by Facilitator (when all requirements met)
- A Recommendations section advising New Users to:
- suspend patterns of belief and judgment about performance
- observe and reflect on what's happening on wiki pages
- learn to use 'Recent Changes & the 'History' tab!!
- be patient and gentle with yourself
- recognize that the WE learning community is available
- when in doubt, just ask
- realize that you are part of the WE Family.
CHAPTER SIX — RESEARCH LIMITATIONS AND OTHER INTERPRETATIONS OF THE DATA
Limitations of the Research Method
Validity and Reliability
A challenge to the validity of this intervention, is whether the wiki skills training designed for the WE Community is appropriate for Otago's learning community consisting of faculty, learning designers and management. A physical institution has different (cultural) dynamics than an online collaborative environment, and it is quite likely that the workshop will have to be customized and localized for the NZ language, culture and expectations.
Active Contributors are defined as 100 edits per month, but that may be meaningless if the contributions are not of high quality. One Wiki Educator may tinker with text 100 times but this may pale in comparison to a Wiki Educator with a Ph.D. who pastes a 5,000 word article, the basis of which will a submission to Harvard Business Review. David Wiley's OER Handbook for Educators is one of the most significant contributions to WE, yet he does not actively contribute on a daily or weekly basis. As well, WE/Otago may have different ways of defining Active Contributors.
Selection and Investigator Bias
While the use of unobtrusive measures sidesteps some issues associated with selection and investigator bias in terms of questionnaire design, surveys, interviewing methods and role/position (i.e., this paper's author is an early adopter of WE, and a member of the WE governing Community Council), there are ethical concerns with using online communication data and 'digital footprints' unobtrusively (Wikipedia 2008), and analysis and dissemination of results must be performed with sensitivity and tact.
In the open wiki, communications are public and recorded, but an individual's process for making decisions is not, unless s/he shares or discloses it. Content analysis is limited to recorded oral, written and graphical communications (Babbie, 2005, p. 362) of Wiki Educators which are an important means for identifying and analyzing clues to their motivational needs. These are affected by the communication source, the level of detail, language, cultural references, tone and communications privacy and confidentiality.
Information Accuracy and Clarity
Investigators may not be able to precisely determine which specific motivations are occurring using content analysis or unobtrusive measures. One-on-one, face-to-face interviews and subsequent interpretation may yield the best information and insight. Even then, an educator-author may aware of or be grounded to his/her thoughts and feelings and motivations to the extent that s/he can transmit them accurately to the investigator. In addition, s/he may not feel safe enough, to consider providing this information to anyone including a trusted or anonymous professional.
Mclelland's Theory of Motivation is plausible with a few caveats:
Wikis are an online community within a large bureaucracy
Mclelland's original research focused on the motivation of managers in a large, complex bureaucracy during times of great change and social upheaval. In WE, when an educator-author wants to develop a project, there are no approvals required, s/he can simply create a page, and then build a community around it. Some people who add value to the project are volunteers, others are paid. WE Governance is provided by an elected open community council. In the case of an WE/Otago installation, it becomes more complicated, as there certainly is a defined organizational structure, governance and grievance procedures, with a specific managerial cadre, and associated roles and responsibilities. Senior project managers and faculty are more likely to be motivated by n-Pow, learning designers motivated by a n-Ach/n-Pow (within their own projects), and HR leaders by n-Ach/n-Aff.
WE is a self-organizing ecosystem with simple rules governing behavior
The wiki environment represents a paradigm shift in how work is organized — it is a grassroots effort vs. top-down. There are simple rules and few barriers to entry, other than learning basic wiki skills and wiki etiquette. WE/Otago's wiki will operate differently, because it is not a complex bureaucracy nor a fully open project space or learning community.
Many organizations have designed. behind closed doors, a plethora of rules, policies and procedures to increase control, variance and accountability. Otago can learn from WE's model of one explicit rule (a user registration system) and several implicit ones (i.e., focus on community values) and its key success factors to customize and adapt the WE/Otago, in a way that makes sense for the institution's environment, strategy, stakeholders and cultural identity.
Hybrid Motivational Needs
In the wiki, there's really no such thing as 'either-or' (i.e., n-Pow, n-Ach or n-Aff); it's more of a hybrid model of motivational needs. Usually, educator-authors join the wiki because of their curiosity and interest about the WE Community and they want to be able to accomplish something (n-Aff/n-Ach). It is only after they complete the wiki skills training, that they gain a greater sense of their own power to influence others and effect change (n-Pow/n-Ach) within the WE Community and potentially within their organization.
When an educator-author exercises his/her power (n-Pow/n-Ach) to rally others and/or resources to a project, other members will take notice, and become more involved. Strategic project leaders in the WE Community will recognize this as an opportunity to extend their influence while continuing to build the WE Community and larger ecosystem.
Motivations & Roles Change Over Time
Users' motivation for connecting to, and using WE, changes over time — according to skill level, community status, resources and their ability to build community around their own projects. As well, a person's motivations tend to change when they experience how peers in the community rally around their project (and others too) in terms of help, resources and people. This has implications for Otago n-Pow managers who may erroneously believe that they can only get things done through the n-Pow orientation, when in fact, the n-Ach orientation is just as valid for getting things done in an open wiki and learning community.
Psychological Development and Emotional Complexity
Users are likely to be at different stages of psychological development, and consciously or unconsciously repress their experiences and memories in a way that masks their motivations. Stress and anxiety can trigger and exaggerate complex individual responses and behaviors. Emotional make-up and stability is difficult to measure through content analysis or unobtrusive measures, and requires a different measurement instrument. With increased self-awareness, Active Contributors who originally see themselves as n-Pow, may really be seeking connection and relationship through n-Aff.
Open Source Values & Dynamic Community Energy
WE's open source values draws people into the learning community and gives them supportive experience which may not always be the case in a bureaucracy. This can enhance positive interdependence and promotive interaction whereby individuals dynamically encourage and facilitate each others' efforts to accomplish the group's goals. They have a moderate level of arousal characterized by low anxiety and stress and act in trusting and trustworthy ways. (Johnson & Johnson, 2006)
These dynamics feed the energy created in, and by the WE Community, which in turn attracts educators into WE/Otago's learning communities. My experience stems from a sense of pride and ownership in belonging to the WE Community, and a desire to do my best to help it grow and thrive. While my motivation was initially a n-Ach, it has emerged as a a hybrid n-Pow/n-Ach/n-Aff at different times.
Collaboration Develops Over Time
While Otago's Education Development Centre has a high degree of content and participation in the wiki, there are concerns concern about the extent of collaboration thus far (given some users n-Aff/n-Ach motivation for joining WE in the first place). A quick check of almost any project's "page history" reveals a significant lack of collaboration. (Google Groups Increasing Collaboration, 2008) Conversely, collaboration on WE is measured differently: collaboration occurs in multiple ways over time — online, offline, and in threaded discussions and presentations. For example, if a Wiki Educator learned about a new innovation in a Google Thread from a peer, and applied it to a project, that could be recorded as meaningful collaboration. In the case there is only one (visible) contributor per page, it may or may not be meaningful to say that collaboration is happening, because the actual collaboration occurred in a different format or prior experience.
Lack of Stress & Anxiety Increases Learner Motivation
In the wiki skills workshops there is evidence of anxiety and distress (negative stress) and eustress (positive stress) (Selye, 1974). A significant consequence of the analysis in this thought experiment is that the absence or reduction of negative stress and anxiety leads to higher levels of motivation and contribution behavior. Anxiety disorders are characterized by higher than normal levels of fear, worry, tension, or anxiety (Shebib, 2003, pp. 273-274) and can be measured in terms of psychological, physiological and neurological impacts. Frequently new users have shared feelings of panic, fight/flight responses and internal conflict avoidance before dropping out of the wiki skills training process and their respective WE learning community. They complain that they are too busy and don't have enough time or that the WE website is a maze and the tutorial instructions are too complicated. While it is true that the WE user interface is complex and not very user-friendly, there is a strong possibility that learners are using these rationalizations to mask their own anxiety and discomfort.
A Qualified Facilitator Maintains Learner Motivation
A key component in effective wiki skills training is the use of a highly-qualified facilitator with experience in community-building, and its importance in building a viable and sustainable WE/Otago and an appreciation for community-building. The facilitator plays a pivotal role in maintaining learners' interest and motivation and making appropriate community introductions — until the learner masters his/her desired wiki skills level. While the online environment leverages learning at scale, it is very challenging environment for the facilitator:
"Because we depend on emotional bodily communication, conducting effective, humane, and fulfilling communication in online environments would be challenging even against a stable background of beliefs about and orientations toward culture and community in the larger society. Those involved would need to work in an ongoing way to maintain the flow of interaction so that it was interpersonally inclusive and made people feel visible, recognized and understood. In face-to-face interaction, much of this work is done intuitively and habitually using methods into which people have been socialized. Consequently, people are often not even aware that it is being done. The need to engage in deliberate and conscious work becomes clear when certain kinds of differences or breaches occur." (Shapiro & Hughes, 2002, p. 95)
The facilitator can try to be especially sensitive to behavioral cues, and quickly adapt and respond directly to a learner's expressed need with appropriate information and modelling behavior in line with the individual's learning style. Otago's managers (n-Pow) may delegate this facilitation role, or learn it themselves to achieve their organization's goals and objectives.
Linguistically-Relevant and Culturally-Sensitive Training Strengthens Motivation & Understanding
The wiki skills training model (i.e., tutorials and workshops) were conducted almost exclusively in the English language, yet many learners were not native English-speakers. While WE/Otago is an English-speaking educational institution in NZ, the reality is that many of its faculty, learning designers and managers/executives are from elsewhere too. While there are plans to have wiki skills training in multiple languages, in the meantime learners from different cultures may not completely understand the English-language wiki skills training and the related subtleties and nuances. Learners from developing countries are likely not to criticize the training because of its online nature, and because it is offered by an authoritative organization, The Commonwealth of Learning. (COL is a member of the family of Commonwealth organizations, and one of only three sister organizations that is directly accountable to the Commonwealth Heads of State.)
Ascriptive Cultures Require 'Official' Approval for Motivation & Contribution Behavior
WE's attempts to gain a substantive foothold in educational institutions with an ascriptive culture have not been as successful as in achievement-oriented cultures such as NZ's Otago Polytechnic. (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998). "In ascribing cultures, status is attributed to those who "naturally" evoke admiration from others, that is, older people, highly qualified people and/or skilled in a technology or project deemed to be of national (or critical) importance." (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998, p. 116.) Wiki skills training in ascriptive cultures will be successful in increasing individual motivation and contribution behavior, when it has the official stamp of approval from a highly-respected leader (in the hierarchy) of the organization, usually the Vice Chancellor or Chancellor (or someone in that role). Otherwise, sustained participation and engagement will be sorely lacking.
Interpretation of Current Data
This thought experiment does not include actual data collection, although a significant amount of raw data is publicly available. In general, even with a low completion rate (10%), there is ample evidence that the L4C wiki skills training model is accomplishing its goals, whereby some Wiki Educators are motivated to contribute to an open learning community.
The original L4C wiki skills training model had a high dropout rate and a low completion rate (<10%). The purpose of the revised L4C wiki skills training was to improve both metrics. In specifically reviewing both content analysis and unobtrusive measures, there is considerable evidence that the number, diversity and growth of Active Contributors in the open WE/Otago learning community has increased, as a result of the revised curriculum. Moreover, the wiki skills training in Otago, has motivated their staff to contribute in their WE/Otago open learning community.
CHAPTER SEVEN — HOW MANAGERS CAN MAKE BETTER USE OF WIKI CONTRIBUTORS
WE is a hybrid economic model and an open community for peer learning, action and collaboration: to access and share ideas, content and practices for technology innovation; and to develop, share, customize, localize, and re-use OERs. Wiki Educators and specialized experts receive tangible and intangible compensation, and intrinsic rewards for their membership input, participation and contribution, regardless of whether their motivation is driven by a need for power, achievement or affiliation. There is a noticeable lack of hierarchy in WE, particularly as compared with academic organizations. A community consensus model and simple rules govern behavior in the wiki space whereby anyone can join, participate and contribute according to their interest(s), motivation and skills.
Use Knowledge of Motivational Needs to Support Contribution Behavior
Otago's managers need to support Wiki Educators' contribution behavior by customizing their efforts to match Users' motivational needs and learning styles. Users' behavior and motivation for connecting to, and using WE, does change over time according to their assumptions, knowledge, skills, reputation and their ability to find resources and institutional support, and build learning communities around their projects (n-Ach/n-Aff).
For example, Otago learning designer Leigh Blackall, driven by a mix of n-Pow and n-Ach (who originally chose the more secure WikiEducator vs. Wikispaces. (Blackall, 2007) His n-Aff component comes from his relationship with the open source community and willingness to contribute to its growth and development. An attentive manager will look for ways to support and reinforce Blackall's n-Pow (instead of seeing it as a threat) and his satisfaction as Lane suggests. “The market has stakes in the happiness of its participants, for hedonic moods influence demand and productivity. They do this by influencing the nature and urgency of demand and the energy, creativity, cooperativeness, and risk aversion of workers. Happy people are simply more productive.” (Lane, 1991, p. 572) A supportive strategy might include allocating additional funds for Blackall to hire professional help (and delegate the work) for a strategic WE/Otago project. Another option might be to have a conference at Otago, and assign Blackall a leading role (n-Ach/n-Aff).
Bounded by Otago's strategic and operational imperatives, and the operating style of professional managers, the innovator/early-adopter ways of care-free n-Ach, n-Aff Wiki Educators may be out of step with the new reality (of a local Otago/WikiEducator site). In the merging and mixing of the self-organizing wiki-culture and the established academic organization culture, an assessment of transition readiness and follow-on coaching with wiki skills education may be required, along with judicious expectations and timelines for satisfactory implementation and results. (Bridges, 2003, pp. 143-145)
Be Aware of Language and Socially-Constructed Meaning
WE is more than powerful means of peer production, it provides a cohesive global community identity and ethos. Otago's managers need to recognize how language, frame-of-reference and differential meanings can affect Wiki Educators' skill development, performance and productivity. For example, there is considerable variance when a manager vs. a learning designer, vs. a physics vs. marketing professor interprets ideas and conveys them via their own socially-constructed meaning. Their 'language' is imbued with shared values and meaning; similarly, in the wiki, symbolic-interpretative influences abound. As Sassure suggests, "the use of language and other signs to make meaning is community-specific, and that particular communities have their own sign systems." (Hatch, 2006, p. 48)
"Because meaning is embedded in human interactions and in symbols and artifacts that may be interpreted differently by different people, we need to address multiple interpretations and the role context plays in shaping how situations and events are interpreted by those who experience them. In doing so, we need to be particularly sensitive to language because it is through language (both verbal and written forms) that we construct, modify, make sense of and communicate reality." (Hatch, 2006, p. 43)
In learning communities, patience, sensitivity and cultural mediation is required to ensure that individuals are speaking the 'same' language, to ensure shared meaning, understanding and a solid foundation for future action and collaboration. Wittgenstein's 'language games' where words take on a specific meaning in relation to the values, culture and expectations of the specific community. (Hatch, 2006, p. 48) This has implications for inspiring a shared vision (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 101), because if two groups, departments or silos are hearing the same word but referencing a different meaning, then they will perceive little common ground. Leaders need to 'check' and verify that their preferred meaning is being received properly, or they risk misunderstanding, conflict and poor performance.
Acknowledge Culture, Fear and Resistance
The 'brave new world' can be confusing, overwhelming and downright scary. When an established, hierarchical academic organizational culture meets the complex, self-organizing and fluid wiki culture, savvy leaders and managers can anticipate resistance to change and a clash of cultures, regardless of WE's value proposition or ROI.
"It's not that people resist change, it's that people resist being changed." (Anonymous)
If the new organizational change is not managed properly when Otago officially adopts WE as its OER development platform, managers, faculty and learning designers may experience anxiety and fear losing control about how the change will affect their roles and responsibilities.
"...changes cause transitions, which cause losses, and it is the losses not the changes, that they're reacting to; and... it's a piece of their world that is being lost, not a piece of ours, and we often react that way ourselves when it's a part of our own world that is being lost. Being reasonable is much easier if you have little or nothing at stake." (Bridges, 2003, pp. 16-17)
Some Otago academic departments are focused on n-Pow, which may be difficult for other (siloed) departments with a n-Pow, or n-Ach orientation that become involved in the future. An important concern is the extent to which an Otago manager is required to be a n-Pow orientation to be most effective (Mclelland, 1976). If such project managers were first involved in collaborative project development, the possibility of overpowering later-arriving managers and project teams is high. This could threaten the success of a young learning community, which benefits from participants from all points on the motivational need spectrum.
Culturally, some Otago's Wiki Educator stakeholders may also be concerned about pursuing leadership positions due to being tagged as a 'tall poppy'— a strong image (negative) in NZ, where tall poppies in the bureaucracy get cut first; conversely, small poppies evade scrutiny. Their fear is palpable and real, as they have already proven themselves in the academic, siloed culture, even if the silos mitigate productive interdisciplinary collaboration. "People's anxiety rises and their motivation falls. They feel disoriented and self-doubting. They are resentful and self-protective. Energy is drained away from work into coping tactics (such as absenteeism, work-to-rule and sabotage)". (Bridges, 2003, p. 40)
The flat wiki structure creates opportunities for increasing connection and collaboration, diminishing power distance' (Hofstede, 1984, 1991). At Otago, there is expressed anxiety about new expectations for performance and success from its program managers and leaders. Faculty and learning designers (regardless of seniority) wonder aloud about their ability to master new technology, and have important concerns about peer recognition, workload, compensation and job security.
Challenges abound regarding how faculty, learning designers and managers conduct themselves using the open wiki environment. For example, few educators would dare change their peers' work before exercising 'professional courtesy' (i.e., talking to them first about they propose). Then, it would be up to the that person to decide how, when and where s/he will make modifications. Otago faculty have also expressed concerns about OER quality, reverting edits and site vandalism. Proponents explain that the open nature of the n-Aff community helps protect it from 'risks' such as vandals and hackers. It also encourages participation and a strong sense of common purpose, so the proportion of fixers to breakers tends to be high, and a wiki will generally have little difficulty remaining stable, assuming that people see value in its existence and have a genuine interest in keeping things tidy. (Lamb, 2004)
Other challenges include maintaining professional boundaries while relationships are shifting. For example, how to reconcile n-Pow Otago faculty who don't have adequate wiki skills with high-performing n-Ach learning designers now motivated by n-Pow (in a WE seeting), yet having to be n-Ach in Otago's organizational culture.
It's enough to wreak havoc on established power relations and 'respectful' relationships between members of the Otago team, organization work arrangements (particularly in organizations with labour unions and collective bargaining agreements) and the well-honed culture of the Academy.
Otago's managers can use Lewin's model of organizational change to manage resistance, by unfreezing competitive silo behavioral patterns of a desired faculty group or department, and then influencing the direction of the change to more open collaboration (i.e., movement). Refreezing can occur when the behavioral patterns are institutionalized (Hatch, 2006,, p. 310, Morgan, 2006, p. 283) Ford's Valentine's exercise, a conflict resolution technique, might be appropriate for behavioral modification or even behavior prototyping (Morgan, p. 284)) and modelling-the-way (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, pp. 94-95), by creating conditions that force change in individual/group accountability, leadership support and organizational culture. (Pascale et al., 2000, p. 133)
Be Open to Complexity and Emergence
The WE experience provides ample evidence that self-organizing and autocatalytic activities are positive and disruptive . Strong community values and a clear purpose are essential to harnessing and unleashing the potential for peer dialogue, information exchange and collaboration in an open wiki environment. There needs to be a recognition of the intimate connection to other ecosystems with different organizational cultures, structures, processes, priorities, policies and requirements.
Open self-organizing systems encourage unpredictable, energetic and chaotic interactions to occur, with unforeseen consequences. Openness is a powerful attractor, where any combination of people and resources can pull or push the system in different directions organically producing complex patterns. (Morgan, 2006, p. 251-254) As Wiki Educators within Otago's community learn wiki skills, they can tap into the larger WE Community (n-Aff) for relevant data and feedback. They can mentor and coach their Otago peers and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration while increasing their status and reputation internally and externally. They can reap the intrinsic rewards of doing a good job, and build building capacity in WE and WE/Otago learning communities. As double (and multiple) loop learning diffuses throughout the open ecosystem, individuals experience greater opportunities for feedback, learning and integration. They receive valuable feedback from their efforts (n-Pow/n-Ach), their peers and their managers. In turn, this feedback is amplified by all of what is happening in their environments and within themselves.
Human beings aren't hard-wired to sense everything on all frequencies, and consequently miss important cues, signals and communications. Through the use of metaphor, managers can image complexity in their organizations through John Seely Brown's ‘knowledge iceberg’, where 10 per cent of knowledge is explicit and visible, and 90 per cent is tacit and invisible. (Brown, 2002). They can apply it elsewhere to make sense of an individual's conscious or unconscious behavior and emotional makeup, and motivated self-interest(s), and plan timely and appropriate interventions.
Managers can manage complexity by learning how to use small changes to create large effects. (Morgan, 2006, p. 255) This is reminiscent of Gladwell's Tipping Points which can be leveraged to effect group buy-in, participatory engagement and ownership during organizational change. (Gladwell, 2000) For example, if Otago conducted a survey and found that 10% of its faculty were interested in becoming Wiki Educators; 70% waiting to see which way the wind blows; and 20% dead-set against it, Otago's leaders could focus their communications and resources on the top 20% and a majority portion of the middle 70%, to strategically tip the balance — and directly engage internal champions, fence sitters and even members of the opposition. This communications effort could reduce fear, anxiety and internal resistance to change.
Whether its managers acknowledge it, Otago is bound by the complex laws of nature and environmental conditions. How and when they use tools and techniques to embrace, adapt and/or resist change, will affect the pace at which individual and collective patterns of behaviour will emerge. Continuous transformation and emergent order are a natural state of affairs. (Morgan, 2006, p. 262). As both process and outcome, emergence can be viewed as one of the “unseen influences (that) affect behavior” and motivation. When complex adaptive systems approach “the edge of chaos” conditions created that allow a state of change or disequilibrium, thereby triggering a new state and transformation or metamorphosis. (Wheatley 2006, p. 54) The conditions for emergence can be likened to a magnetic field and “emergence as the aligned pattern of iron filings when placed in that field”. (Pascale, Millemann & Gioja, 2000, p. 113) Some systems will tend to self-organize when they approach disequilibrium. “The system becomes capable of redesigning itself into a more sophisticated form that is better able to cope with its problems and challenges.” (Pascale, Millemann & Gioja, 2000, p. 125)
Manage Paradoxical Change
Otago's managers can achieve better results and manage paradoxical change, if they take into account the motivational drivers for different Wiki Educators (i.e., faculty, learning designers, managers/executives), according to Mclelland's three types of motivation, and Lane's intrinsic rewards theories. They can benefit from using a contingency framework, to support different individuals at different times, in a self-organizing ecosystem within an educational institution.
The paradox in the open wiki environment, is that if one gives up control, one gains a greater sense of power and influence, self-confidence and mastery, and higher productivity and performance within an organization.
Potential new futures always create oppositions with the status quo (Morgan, 2006, p. 282). (They) reflect the struggle of opposites and the fact that any system development always contains elements of counter-development because each position tends to generate its opposite. (Morgan, 2006, p. 284)
Clearly, participation and contribution in a complex, self-organizing wiki environment is a significant cultural and organizational shift, one that most people (especially faculty) never signed up for. It is still up to the individual Otago educator or learning designer to decide if and how they want to use the WE/Otago wiki. (Otago's Education Development Centre is increasingly using WE for its curricula development.) If Otago's organizational policy changes because of a strategic directive to achieve greater financial savings and economies of scale through WE/Otago collaboration, this may trigger greater anxiety, resistance and possibly paralysis. The dialectic tension will emerge and re-emerge if people feel that the new emphasis on collaboration is inconsistent with what seems reasonable or possible.
Otago's managers have to find ways to create new contexts that can reframe key contradictions in a positive way. (Morgan, 2006, pp. 283-284). They can do so, by engaging and reassuring actively-contributing Wiki Educators (n-Pow/n-Ach) in a ongoing dialogue; explaining shared values; and providing funding and resource support to initiatives of strategic interest. Managers can keep abreast of important learnings that affect growth and sustainability of the WE/Otago learning community. For example, several WE discussion threads have revealed that: (1) the 'Community' is more important than technology; and (2) projects sustain collaboration. These nuances can help Otago's managers develop multiple scenarios of an emerging future, and make informed decisions while mitigating risk.
While WikiEducator is often touted as facilitating collaboration, it suffers from a chaotic and frustrating problem: it's very difficult to find content. When content is 'organized' on the wiki, it has greater value for one group vs. another, until it is revised, localized or contextualized for another purpose, individual or group. Yet, in the open wiki, this becomes a positive, because Wiki Educators are forced to communicate with their peers, on-and off-line, to find what they are looking for.
Paradoxically, in traditional organizational structures users have greater access to content, yet restricted and/or privileged access to communication channels. When content is developed on-wiki, there is no pre-defined hierarchy to follow, unless previously agreed upon. These are some of the tradeoffs (and tensions) for openness, freedom and flexibility.
CHAPTER EIGHT — SUMMARY & CONCLUSION
There are fundamental changes affecting the educational system, due to a proliferation of cost-effective information and communications technologies (ICTs); turbulent economic, social and political changes; changing learner expectations and demographic and psychographic shifts. The learning process is shifting from top-down teacher-centric models, to facilitated, peer-collaborative student-centred models bolstered by ICTs, including the Internet / Web 2.0 technologies. Interdisciplinary collaboration is shifting from a 'nice-to-have' to a basis for financial cost-savings and performance improvement. An open wiki environment with wiki skills training and enhanced facilitator and community-building support can provide a 30 per cent improvement in performance an annual cost-savings of 25 per cent to 30 per cent for course development and revision activities. Educational institutions have to reconfigure themselves to survive, adapt and thrive in a new era of choice, competition and disaggregation of educational services.
Otago has made a strategic decision to embrace WE as an OER authoring platform, and spearhead a made-on-New Zealand collaborative OER effort (WikiEducator Heywire8, 2008) for several reasons including: thought leadership; interdisciplinary collaboration (i.e., across silos, and among faculty, learning designers and management); curricula development savings and efficiencies; increasing student enrollment; and quality issues.
There is considerable evidence for the hypothesis that Wiki skills training in educational institutions will motivate people to contribute in an open learning community, but it's just the first step. Central to people's motivation for contributing to the open wiki is the need for power, achievement and/or affiliation (Mclelland, 1976); intrinsic rewards (Lane, 1991); and the absence or reduction of stress and anxiety. Otago's managers can use this knowledge to identify high probability contributors early in the wiki skills training workshops — who can be supported throughout the process and motivated to become Active Contributors; and to mitigate internal resistance to change within the organization. To achieve this on a consistent basis, an organizational commitment to enhanced facilitator support (which includes a community-building component) is required, as well as appropriate internal metrics to frequently measure progress and communicate the WE/Otago value proposition.
Future Directions for Research
There are many possibilities for future research relating to deepening inquiry into the hypothesis Wiki skills training in educational institutions will motivate people to contribute in an open learning community; exploring adjacent threads/ or utilizing different measurement tools. These include investigating:
Gender, culture and demographics
Given the 50-50 split of male/female participation in the wiki skills training, it would be useful to investigate varying attitudes, motivations and contribution behaviors by gender. This would help identify patterns of behavior to assist managers in fine-tuning their motivational strategies and interventions. Similar investigations could focus on cultural and demographic analyses, which will be important to the WE Community as it expands to other educational institutions throughout the world.
Facilitators' interventions and their effectiveness
As the facilitator's role is expanded, it will be useful to measure different variables such as the facilitator's style, intervention, language of facilitation and learning approach to empirically gauge their effectiveness. Future additions to facilitator training include a community-building component; a supervisory and support system and ongoing evaluation. It will be important to measure the extent to which this makes any difference in learner contributions, and the the facilitator's own motivation (as s/he is an Active Contributor). It would be interesting to research different methods for identifying high probability Active Contributors (i.e., anticipate who they might be and provide support accordingly) to develop a Contributors' Index for facilitators and managers, to guide their behavior, interventions and approach.
Improvements to wiki skills training model & wiki software
The wiki skills training model is constantly evolving according to users' feedback. In future, a post-workshop survey will be developed focusing on measures for motivation in terms of Power, Achievement, Affiliation and Intrinsic Reward (and degrees therein). Significant improvements in the Mediawiki software are expected in 2009, in terms of look, feel, function, account creation, and communications. These refinements can be measured in terms of their impact on learner motivation and contribution behavior.
Learner stress and anxiety & mitigation strategies
In the Unanticipated Consequences section, it was found that the absence of stress and anxiety had a postive impact on learner motivation and contribution behavior. An in-depth exploration of the role of stress and anxiety in an open wiki environment, would give Otago's managers empirical knowledge for anticipating when and where stress and anxiety occurs and how they might address it. By exploring mitigation strategies in a research setting, they would have greater insight in planning resources and interventions to deal with it. This research could be done in conjunction with experts from related fields in psychology, physiology and neurology to understand the various facets of stress and anxiety in the context of individual skill development and resistance, as well as and organizational change and internal resistance to change (from within the organization).
Open Learning Communities
Open learning communities and wikis are a relatively new social and economic phenomenon. Much work remains to be done to investigate individual assumptions, expectations, and participation; as well as group dynamics, culture and norms in the merging of open learning communities and established academic cultures. Such research will be a useful guide for Otago's managers and leaders to identify how can create high performing learning communities which are sustainable, scalable and cost-effective.
Summary and Conclusions
WE is a hybrid economic model and an open community for peer learning, action and collaboration: to access and share ideas, content and practices for technology innovation; and to develop, share, customize, localize, and re-use OERs. Wiki Educators and specialized experts receive tangible and intangible compensation, and intrinsic rewards for their membership input, participation and contribution, regardless of whether their motivation is driven by a need for power, achievement or affiliation. There is a noticeable lack of hierarchy in WE, particularly as compared with academic organizations. A community consensus model and simple rules govern behavior in the wiki space whereby anyone can join, participate and contribute according to their interest(s), motivation and skills.
Open Systems, Natural Organization and Adaptive Leadership
Otago is learning first-hand about new form of organization that enables natural and adaptive processes and activities to emerge in a way that would not be possible in a more structured organizational form. Open systems require different decision-making structures and processes; greater transparency and a willingness to share control —- which may be more than Otago is willing to accommodate, over the medium- and longer-term. Otago's managers should ensure alignment with the institution's strategic goals and priorities, and systematically research, measure, test, implement and communicate successes and failures to Otago's leaders and learning communities.
To take the WE/Otago project to the next level, by increasing OER content production and interdisciplinary collaboration, the following adjustments are recommended to support stakeholders' learning styles and motivational drivers.
Assess Readiness and Frequently Communicate
Different Otago departments will have different degrees of readiness and participation. If individuals and groups are not 'ready' a project will fail, and the lack of success can undermine support for other Otago projects. It is important that Otago identify the innovators and early adopters, and have a strategic rollout plan (even including terms of reference / outputs)) for engaging the early and late majority in crossing the internal chasm. (Moore, 1991). Frequent communications are essential in organizational change.
Strengthen Facilitator Training, Supervisory Support and Evaluation
Dedicated and synchronous facilitator support is a weak link of the wiki skills training model. Facilitators could benefit from additional skill development, supervisory and mentoring support and evaluation to increase their effectiveness and motivation. A facilitator's workshop or module which includes content about community-building, facilitation skills and bridging activities for developing sustainable dyads, clusters and learning communities is essential in explaining the WE/Otago value proposition and reducing fear and resistance to change.
Reduce Training Time
Within Otago, training time can be reduced from 5 days (online tutorial) to 1 hour (via real-time chat/demo) to increase return on investment. Follow-on training can be provided through facilitator bridging, and 'learn-by-doing' and peer support.
Focus on Pilot Projects and Community-Building
The wiki skills training intervention motivates people to contribute to an open learning community. However, it doesn't foster the (interdisciplinary or inter-institutional) collaborative activity that Otago requires. This can be achieved through strategic pilot projects (with clear project goals and structure, terms of reference, outputs and outcomes) to develop internal use cases for gaining greater institutional support. A scenario-oriented 'project leader' or facilitator who can effectively communicate in the language and organizational culture of both wiki and academic environments would be desirable.
Develop Clusters of Wiki Educators
Experience from the University of Canterbury in NZ has shown a cluster of at least five (5) Wiki Educators involved in course development or pilot projects can generate rapid improvements in productivity and performance.
Seed (and Nurture) Learning Communities
Learning communities are an important forum for information-sharing and relationship-building and clues to where, and why resistance to change is most likely. Otago's managers (n-Pow) can seed self-organizing learning communities with ideas, content and resources (by delegating this task). Further , they can also freely participate, and watch the engagement and ownership evolve, or sputter. While they give up some control, they can also identify which projects are worthy of strategic attention and collaborative support.
Alleviate Users' Anxiety with Trained Facilitators
Learning wiki skills is stressful, and anxiety has a considerable negative impact on users' motivation. Properly-trained facilitators can anticipate Users' anxiety and provide hybrid-motivational bridging experiences (n-Pow/n-Ach/n-Aff) and an 'experience of success (which itself is motivating). As new users become Active Contributors, their productivity increases and they are likely to bring their communities and networks (n-Aff) into a WE/Otago project and substantially contribute to growth and sustainability. Enhanced facilitator and community-building support can help new users and managers to feel more 'in control' while they are struggling (n-Pow); believe in their ability to influence their learning communities and achieve desired project outcomes (n-Ach).
The Control Paradox and a Paradigm Shift
When I began my WE journey, it was initially about n-Ach in the context of an affiliative environment. As I built my reputation in the community and skill level, I gained a greater sense of the importance of my power in the WE Community. As a community-builder, I realized that my power, influence and reputation could be significantly increased by sharing and collaborating with others. My paradigm shift was to let go of the impulse to control, to persuade and nudge people towards completing "X", "Y" or "Z"; instead focusing on making connections and introductions based on mutual interests, model-the-way, and support folks who applied their learning to go to the next level.
In the drive to go deeper into Users' motivational needs, it's easy to miss the 'big picture' of what's really going on in the wiki: educator-authors are experiencing a unique 'affiliation', openness and connection that draws them into the open WE environment. Add to the mix their motivated self-interest, and a dynamic, energy where users can experience other users' energy, in contributing their talents, resources and projects to something much greater and more meaningful than they currently experience at WE/Otago and beyond.
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Wiley, David (2009). Openness and the Disaggregated Future of Higher Education. Retrieved April 10, 2009 from http://www.slideshare.net/opencontent/openness-and-the-disaggregated-future-of-higher-education-presentation
- Appendix A: Traditional vs. Wiki (Peer) Production: Course Development & Revision Costs (included)
- Appendix B: Tables
- Appendix C: Charts