|Work in progress, expect frequent changes. Help and feedback is welcome. See discussion page.|
Primal Needs in the Digital Age: Educators' Motivations in Collaborative Wiki Spaces
by Randy Fisher (aka Wikirandy)
(Overview) - Executive Summary
Pioneering educator-authors are contributing their energies and talents, insights and perspectives to the global WikiEducator community and contributing to open education resource (OER) projects - while working with established academic/learning organizations. Motivated by self-interest and a need for achievement, affiliation and power and varying forms of compensation, a growing global cluster of strategically-minded individuals and learning organizations are developing a scalable and sustainable model for free and open education. Undaunted by a complex, self-organizing ecosystem, wiki skills gaps and open source technology hiccups, educator-authors are engaging in meaningful participation, limited collaboration, and experiencing and increased performance and productivity.
(Image/Picture) - Wiki Process
WikiEducator (WE) is a global education project focused on the development of a free and open education curriculum by 2015, in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goals. This free content is being developed for use in schools, polytechnics, universities, vocational education institutions and informal education settings and removes barriers to active and meaningful international collaboration among educators (formal and informal), regardless of educational level, language, culture, technology, and geography.
It is a project supported by the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver (an intergovernmental organization focused on open and distance learning) that recognizes that Western business models can neither accommodate nor scale cost-effectively to meet the demands of developing nations for affordable and universal education. Developing countries simply don't have access to a large pool of local teachers and instructors and affordable curriculum development services and educational texts.
“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, 2007)
WE uses free and open source mediawiki software to 'bridge-the-digital divide' (a WE slogan). This software allows multiple authors from any location to collaborate on developing educational content. (This software was developed by the Wikimedia Foundation, and is the same that powers Wikipedia, the world's largest encyclopedia.) There is a close, yet arms-length relationship between WE and Wikipedia, as WE project founder, Dr. Wayne Mackintosh sits on the International Advisory Board of the Wikimedia Foundation, and WikiMedia Deputy Director Erik Moeller sits on WE's Interim International Advisory Board - http://www.wikieducator.org/WikiEducator:Advisory_Board (Erik Möller is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, and co-authored the Definition of Free Cultural Works with Benjamin Mako Hill.)
How it Works
One of WE's most important success factors is the focus on projects of interest to formal or informal educators, says WE founder Dr. Wayne Mackintosh, Education Specialist for e-learning and ICT policy for the Commonwealth of Learning. (http://www.col.org)
Considering their interests and priorities, educator-authors decide on the content they want to develop on WE as: (1) individuals; (2) a dyad, small cluster or larger group of authors from one or more educational institution(s) / organization(s); (3) a cross-disciplinary group of authors in one or multiple locations, who have self-organized individually or have been appointed to work together on a project, such as the Sustainability course at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand. Other possibilities abound, and content may be developed in line with pre-existing course requirements, pilot projects and/or emerging needs.
A WE project consists of either a single wiki page or a series of hyperlinked pages. Educator-authors create wiki pages by registering as a new user on WE. Afterwards, they can 'edit' any existing page on the wiki or create a new page, by simply entering text or adding their own content (i.e., syllabi, course outlines, learning activities, audio, video, images, hyperlinks) in a wiki editing box, and clicking 'save'. The wiki editing software has powerful features (i.e., templates, scripts, publishing) that are enabled by knowledge of the underlying 'wiki syntax' ~ the language of the wiki (similar to HTML for websites). Free wiki skills training with facilitator support are available for educator-authors who wish to learn basic or advanced wiki skills. This is called the Learning4Content initiative, and is supported by a $100K grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation of California until June 2009.
Vigorous Copyright Debate
The debate between forces wanting stronger copyrights and others wanting unfettered access to open and free knowledge has been a galvanizing force for the Free Culture Movement, which believes that access to open and free knowledge is a basic human right — ranging from software to all cultural and creative works. (Lessig, 2004). Within WE, there is an ongoing dialogue about restrictive copyright provisions for educational content; content that cannot be used, modified or updated to reflect local teaching and cultural contexts without 'expressed written permission', payment or both. For example, teachers in small villages in Ghana, are unable to (cost-effectively) localize Basic English 101 materials or Grade 8 math texts, because of various legalities, prohibitions and copyright restrictions as to how, and on what information devices the content can be used (i.e., books, cd’s, dvd, iPods, etc.).
WE has taken a firm stance, and history will judge its success or failure. Being a member of WE is a values statement: participating educator-authors agree to work within the boundaries of open copyright licensing, whereby all works on WE are licensed as Creative Commons-By-Attribution or Creative-Commons-By-Attribution-Share-Alike. The CC-BY-SA copyright statement ensures that any authored content on WikiEducator may be used with complete freedom: for either noncommercial or commercial purposes.
(Main Message) Needs-Based Motivation Supports Wiki Use, Growth
Experiencing a New Experience
WE offers a collaborative, open-source production environment and complex, self-organizing ecosystem to test-drive new technologies and edu-cultural approaches intimately connected to a global peer learning community. Within this education-project development platform, there is a noticeable lack of hierarchy, particularly as compared with traditional academic / learning organizations. There are simple rules governing individual behaviour in the wiki space; anyone can join and participate according to their level of motivation at multiple points of entry.
Like a radiating circle that pulses in and out unpredictably, the 'flat' wiki structure enables the creation of wiki pages and projects at will. The community-driven environment, software capability, and strategic leadership messaging provide a supportive environment for educator-authors to meet their own needs, and learn wiki skills, develop, contribute and share OERs to the larger WE community. Barriers to entry include: lack of confidence in their own abilities to learn wiki/technology skills and navigate the wiki; limited assumptions, perceptions and beliefs; and cultural resistance within their own peer groups and organizations).
I have observed that WE operates as hybrid economic model, whereby educator-authors and specialized experts receive both tangible and intangible compensation for their membership input, participation and contribution. As educator-authors become more involved in WE, they participate in a process which enriches their own journey: creating peer learning opportunities for greater access to technological innovation; enhancing job/project productivity through collaboration and silo-bridging, and increasing their performance and productivity, regardless of whether their motivation is driven by a need for power, achievement or affiliation.
Moreover, I have also observed a palpable energy as educator-authors work together online on projects of shared interest. One can 'feel' the flow of dynamic intellectual and physical energy, as the cycle of collaborative editing grows:
Person A works on Person B's wiki page; an email is automatically sent to Person B, notifying him/her of the change; Person B then compares the revision history of the specific page; then, deciding what to add or modify next.
As the collaboration energy increases, so does their performance and productivity. The time-to-production over typical course revision activity decreases dramatically, and it doesn't feel like drudgery. 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). When educator-authors collaborate on the wiki, they can 'sense' the energy' of their peers working with them (supplemented by email, instant messaging and voice-over-IP communications), creating healthy, positive energy links, and helping 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)
Primary Motivational Needs
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 both Wikipedia and WikiEducator, 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.
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), it does not mitigate an educator-author's professional responsibility to to seriously develop, update and revise useful educational materials (i.e., course outlines, syllabus, handouts, media, learning activities, formative reviews) to reflect changing societal conditions, cultural influences; local contexts and teaching innovations.
On an individual, self-managing basis, these educator-authors are choosing to develop OERs on WE to satisfy their own needs for power, achievement and/or affiliation. (McLelland, 1976) Part of what makes WE so compelling to educator-authors is how they are able to control their own destiny: with a freedom to experiment and learn, succeed and fail, and share the experience openly in a way that (1) serves their own private and professional interests; and (2) that their employers may or may not support. Experimentation, observation and reflection in a supportive environment, are seeding individual innovation, creativity and connection.
As educational institutions embrace WE as their organizational OER development platform (i.e., on a CC- BY or CC-BY-SA basis), they do so with a motivational need expressed by power, achievement or affiliation, but perhaps not as McLelland's defines. They also experience a kind of organizational learning between a clash of cultures. The established hierarchical, academic and predictable organizational culture meets the complex, unpredictable and self-organizing WE operating culture.
(Concept Review)- Compelling Motivational Needs
Needs-Based Motivation Theory
David McLelland's elegant theory of human motivation provides a useful foundation for explaining why educator-authors are motivated to provide their time, talent and resources on an complex working environment. He applied his theory to many situations, including managerial motivation and effectiveness in large, complex bureaucracies. (McLelland, 1976) While: (1) WikiEducator is a complex, open-source, flat collaborative software platform; and (2) otago.wikieducator.org is a sub-domain of WikiEducator aligned to, and under the corporate umbrella of NZ-based educational institution, there are considerable opportunities for application and comparison.
McLelland focused on three needs underlying human motivation: (1) Need for Power: (2) Need for Achievement; and (3) Need for Power. 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
Culture Clash: Reconciling Wiki Roles with Organizational Job Requirements
In the WE Community, there are a vast range of 'people' who support the WE project, including educators, learning designers, multimedia and technology support individuals from learning organizations and institutions. For Otago Polytechnic, the 'people' include educators, learning designers, multimedia and technology support and administrative and executive support people. In general, these roles (WikiEducator Roles, 2008) are self-assigned depending on one's motivational need (n-Pow, n-Ach, n-Aff); however, for institutional projects and domains, specific roles emanate from the project nature, timeliness and resource allocation. Indeed, their roles maybe a combination of self-assignment and delegation from a n-Pow manager or a n-Ach manager.
Beyond the phalanx of tangible and intangible opportunities available to learning organizations, the flat wiki culture is likely to be an integration challenge for the established academic order. In many respects, going the wiki-way may be a culture clash for even the most progressive academic institutions.
The WE community is comprised of people with a high need for achievement (i.e., individuals who want to make a difference, learn new skills and share OERs). They attain this through pursuing a wiki skills certification, as well as thought-leadership and performance within the community. In the open WE community, there are few top-down institutional managers, other than project leader Wayne Mackintosh. There is a distinct emphasis on active participation vs. active influence. 'Those who do' (with an emphasis on quality), are accorded the highest status in the community.
Within the context of Otago Polytechnic, it is far more complex: there is likely to be considerable anxiety about the expectation for the Otago WE community from top institutional managers for desired results (stated or unstated); the stress experienced by both educator-authors and learning support staff about recognition, workload, job role and compensation; the limits to freedom within a wiki/organizational context. For example, there is also likely to be a more expressed power differential between those with n-Pow, n-Ach in the case of content development; achieving a skills certification and initiating a project may not reconcile with the need for high quality peer reviewed OERs, as demanded by the NZ Ministry of Education. Under the reins of the institutional manager, the care-free n-Ach, n-Aff wiki-ways of early Otago innovators may take a backseat to strategic and operational imperatives. In the merging and mixing of the self-organizing wiki-culture and the established academic organization culture, some form of transition coaching in tandem with wiki skills education may be required, with judicious expectations timelines for satisfactory implementation and results. (Bridges, 2003)
One of the major barriers to entry to developing projects and contributing to the WE Community, is learning wiki skills. WE uses a very simple yet powerful editing interface which is challenging for new users ~ "WikiEducators". (It is not WYSIWYG or rich text editing).
Consequently, in 2007, the WE project received $100K in co-funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to train 2500+ teacher-educators in wiki skills with online and face-to-face workshops in 52 Commonwealth countries. In return, the L4C participants were asked to donate one lessor or teaching resource back to the WE open education project.
A full set of wiki skills tutorials (over 10 days) was developed covering basic skills editing to more advanced skills such as setting up tables, templates and project development. A wiki skills certification framework was also developed. The Hewlett funds enabled a performance intervention: the hiring of online facilitators to provide synchronous and asynchronous learner support.
In response to feedback from learners and facilitators, the 10-day workshop was revised in August 2008. It became a 5-day pilot workshop covering basic wiki skills and partial communications directly on the wiki. It was further refined and trialled with Community Media/Community Radio practitioners. Several months later, another L4C facilitator redesigned the 10-day workshop, to incorporate the majority of workshop communications directly on the wiki - using a Feedback page.
This addressed another barrier to entry: WE's truncated communications. As discussed previously, a funding shortfall for software development did not enable automatic notifications via email, when using WE's 'Talk/Discussion' feature. Facilitators used a workaround solution: the use of Google Discussion Groups in conjunction with WE.
Measuring WikiEducators' Effectiveness
My proposed intervention, is to develop a pilot wiki skills workshop to increase WikiEducators' effectiveness, by integrating workshop innovations and revisions, and comparing the results against prior workshops and interventions. This incorporates:
- The 5-day wiki skills workshop version
- Using a feedback page for direct wiki communications
- Providing enhanced facilitator support for WE account registration and setup (i.e., modifying preferencs for automatic WikiAdmin email notifications)
There are two challenges regarding “What Makes an Effective WikiEducator":
- Educator-authors' lack of confidence in their ability to use wiki skills
- Educator-authors' lack of understanding of how to operate within wiki culture
Point #1 deals with the anxiety and stress faced by Educator-authors as they learn a new and essential skill. They start off with an mix of excitement, interest and curiosity about an empowering skill that will allow them to share their talents and connect them to educators globally. Excitement soon turns to frustration and anger when they encounter difficulties in the learning process and a 'work-in-progress wiki. Confusing directions, lack of support and a 'wiki-logical' syntax structure they can't figure out makes them feel like they're going in circles. Without facilitator intervention, they drop out of the wiki skills course – and never make the transition beyond registered user or 'Newbie'.
Point #2 addresses Educator-authors' lack of understanding of how to operate effectively within the wiki culture. In educational institutions, few educators would dare changing their peers' work before exercising 'professional courtesy' ~ talking to them about what they propose. Then, it would be up to the that person, to decide how, when and where s/he will make modifications.
On WE, the 'culture' is different. The wiki technology enables easy access to 99.99% of pages on the wiki (the WE Home Page is one of the few pages that is locked down, accessible only to people with 'sysops' and administration privileges. Users come from all over the world, steeped in varying educational, ethnic and organizational cultures. They are encouraged to 'collaborate' with each other; often this can take the form of breaching established norms of communication expected by some educators. (Unwanted edits can easily be reverted via a software feature which provides a complete and comparative history of any wiki page.) However, this experience can be jarring and stressful, as it imprints a negative first impression and sows the seeds for future resistance.
(Analysis of Outcome Measures) - WikiEducators on the Move
Since its launch in February 2006, WE has successfully attracted the interest of educational institutions from North America, Asia and Africa to use it as an OER development platform. However, New Zealand's Otago Polytechnic has steadily demonstrated its commitment and global leadership in open education. (Blackall, 2007)
The following measures will help assess WikiEducators' Effectiveness in the context of an educational institution (i.e., Otago Polytechnic) that has embraced WE as collaborative OER development platform. They include:
- 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. In general, registering an account on WE is an anonomyous process; however, Otago's educators (including learning designers) will be aware of who their colleagues are, and their progress beyond account registration. Otago will have a dedicated space on WE (i.e., http://otago.wikieducator.org), and comprehensive web statistics and data will be available, based on WE's metadata and Otago's scripts/customizations (i.e., http://wikieducator.org/stats/reports/TablesWikipediaEN.htm )
An early indicator of user stress and anxiety will occur when Otago WikiApprentices (in the WikiEducator Wiki Skills Certification Framework) begin populating their hyperlinked User Pages: using their new wiki skills to edit their pages with text, hyperlinks, images, and multimedia. Anyone – administrators, facilitators and users can view Users' contributions in real-time, as well as feedback and interaction on the wiki and in discussion groups.
2. Rate of conversion from new users to active contributors on WE
This measure shows that WE's are migrating from their 'Newbie' status to a more active role. An Active Contributor is an Otago educator-author 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. WE defines Active Contributors as having more than 100 edits per month.
Otago Active Contributors will be engaged in organizational meetings and discussions (on- and off-wiki), starting new WE projects, contributing to their colleagues wiki pages – and beginning to collaborate in an effective meaningful way. They will also be better positioned to undertand the nuances of the wiki culture (i.e., how to exercise 'professional courtesy' with colleagues on-wiki); how to develop taxonomies for the lack of organization; and how resources and knowledge can pool 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 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 project collaboration ahead.
3. Number, diversity and growth of active contributors on WE
At the heart of a sustainable Otago Community of WikiEducators, is the number, diversity and growth of active contributors. These outcome measures and associated timeline are indicators of a credible and maturing community-of-practice, increasingly drawing in serious educators (who are concerned about peer review and program quality). Otago will be able to identify when it is 'crossing its own chasm' and individual and organizational resistance is decreasing; and how its adoption curve is migrating from innovators and early adopters to early- and late-majority (Moore, 1991).
Once these OER projects get rolling, WE's production environment kicks into high gear, enabling mass production of customized learning resources at a fraction of the cost of traditional publishing alternatives. Otago's educator-authors will gain a greater sense of their power and influence. 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 WikiEducators from other educational institutions; increase their own effectiveness; and leverage Otago's OER leadership and experience nationally and globally.
The research methodology in this research project uses Unobtrusive Measurement.
In seeking to prove my hypothesis that educators are motivated by the need for power, achievement and/or affiliation, I will be focusing on discovering patterns that recur in different times and places (Babbie, 2008, p. 350) - namely, in public, recorded pronouncements and dialogue within open communities and sub-communities; online and offline meetings (recorded); or on public fora such as the main WE Discussion Group (formerly, the WE Mailing List), on Google Discussion Groups. http://groups.google.com/group/wikieducator, or within related community discussion groups and WE nodes / spaces. Additional communication occurs through email discussions with attached documents and/or embedded hyperlinks to text, audio, video or other media.
As of December 3, 2008, the WE Discussion Group had 477 members. It is the main communications channel for member discussion (i.e., postings) and is publicly available for anyone who wants to view it. 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 extension to the installed Mediawiki software (which drives WikiEducator) called “Liquid Threads”. LQT was a custom-designed to be the primary means of communications to support inter-individual and inter-project collaboration on WikiEducator. It had a number of important collaborative features, including assigning unique 'learner identifiers' for each posted message (for tracking individual messages and creating 'learning bubble' groups); and automatically notifying users via email of postings and changes to their “Talk/Discussion” pages. However, due to funding considerations, LQT software development was scaled back and these features have not yet been implemented.
Consequently, LQT's partial implementation has led to inconsistencies in performance and a cumbersome user interface, and has forced users to go outside of the wiki to communicate with each other (i.e., Google Groups). While collaboration takes place within WikiEducator, the fact that communication is somewhat external to the overall wiki site has compromised participation between educator-authors, inter-project connectivity and a sense of cohesion within the WE Community. In the future, LQT's promise may be realized, when it secures additional development funding and/or volunteer assistance.
As a complex, self-organizing and social learning ecosystem, the WE project has dynamics that are common to traditional organizational structures and some differences. The flat wiki structure creates opportunities for increasing connection and collaboration, diminishing power distance' (Hofstede, 1984, 1991). It also poses challenges to the established hierarchical order and work culture. Informal educators, learning designers and educators with less tenure have the same opportunity to voice their concerns and effect change within the wiki environment than more established and tenured educators. 'Professional courtesy' seems to take a back seat to a free-wheeling open source culture where editing someone else's work is fine in the name of 'collaboration'. It's enough to wreak havoc on established 'respectful' relationships, established organization work practices and the well-preserved culture of the Academy.
This paper focuses on using unobtrusive measures (Webb, 2000) to research educators' motivations in the context of a public, online and rapidly-evolving wiki community. Using this method sidesteps some issues associated with selection and investigator bias in terms of questionnaire design, surveys, interviewing methods and role/position (i.e., the author is an early adopter of WE, and a member of the WE governing Community Council.). However, 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 wiki, communications are public, but an individual's decision(s) for making one decision over another is not. Recorded written and verbal communications of participating educator-authors are an important means for identifying and analyzing their public and rarely-seen rationale, motivations and intent. Such clues to their needs and motivations are affected by the communication source, the level of detail, language used, tone and communications privacy and confidentiality.
In reaching out to educators to join the WE project, the WE community has developed and leveraged its messaging to appeal to different educator interests and motivations. Once the individual has joined s/he is likely to respond to different appeals and messages.
There are several primary ways to 'join' and participate in the WE community, including:
- Registering an account on the WE website (http://www.wikieducator.org) - and create and edit pages and projects
- Joining the WE main discussion group,
- Joining a WE node / community-of-practice (i.e., Community Media, India) or discussion group
- Registering for free wiki skills training in the context of the Learning4Content initiative.
- Write about WE in an external blog, website, newspaper, or journal
In addition to analyzing the content of online and offline communications, I will examine and cross-reference existing data such as WE's own statistics on user roles (on- and off-wiki), participation, contributions, revision history and community performance over time. For comparative and historical analyses, I will examine WE strategy and governance documents and policies, wiki skills learning contracts, speeches and presentations, and observed participatory behaviours in line with WE's strategy, timeline and growth.
(Evidence) - Motivated by the Wiki-Way
Since February 2006, WE's registered user base has grown steadily from (1 user to 6500+ users, as of Dec. 2008). WE is among the world's top 153,000 websites (Alexa, 2008). Frequent surveys of new account holders report that a majority of users join because they want to use, test and evaluate new technologies, and apply them to their personal learning and professional educational activities.
The WE Community has achieved a high level of productivity, with approximately 12% of total users achieving the status of 'Active Contributor'. Indeed, they are producing the lion's share of open educational content, and pursuing leadership roles within the WE community. This high level of participation has helped WE achieve its targets faster than originally planned. (WikiEducator Strategy and Timeline, 2008)
WikiEducator 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)
As a 'community of educators', many users freely express their thoughts and opinions in online and offline (public) meetings and correspondence. User feedback can be cross-referenced, compared and analyzed with their real-world role(s), their wiki role(s), and their contributions by date and quality, on- and off-wiki.
Some users, when first learning about WE are motivated by n-Aff;: they appreciate a new-found freedom (i.e.,“I joined WikiEducator to connect, learn, share and help.” (WikiEducator User:Jenniep, 2008). Others motivated by n-Pow, react strongly to proprietary edu-collaboration solutions and appreciate the WE difference.
“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 users, primarily motivated by n-Pow, react angrily to WE's rigid, albeit values-based enforcement of 'open-source everything'; for example, the exclusion of embedding highly-functional 3rd party media and proprietary extensions such as YouTube). They argue correctly, that it limits wider and deeper adoption of WikiEducator. Their Google Group correspondence and blog posts rail at the lack of 'control' of software features such as the Liquid Threads Talk/Discussion notification; the absence of a user-friendly graphical user interface (i.e., rich text editing); and 'one-size-fits-all' tutorials that are designed for the lowest common denominator: low-bandwidth Internet connections for developing countries.
Content analysis of learners' feedback in wiki skills workshop mirrors many of the 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). Many users pursue wiki training because of a desire to create pedagogically-sound learning materials for a lower time-to-cost ratio (n-Ach). However, they are initially drawn to WE because of the strength of the WE Community and the strengths of its affiliations. (n-Aff). It is only after they complete the tutorials that they really understand how they can use WE as a tool to effect change in their communities and educational institutions – whether as individuals, in dyads, clusters or as an institution. (n-Pow).
Content analysis of email/discussion group correspondence, external blogs and on-wiki content, from the elected members of the 1st Community Council, reveals tensions between differing roles, performance expectations, motivations and stressors (i.e., people who are among WE's most Active Contributors and project leader-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)
Organizations, Nodes and Projects
Further evidence is available for measuring outcomes at the organizational, node or even project level; statistics which can cross-referenced by the recent changes / revision history by individuals or a group of individuals, or a 'community-of-practice'. (WikiEducator Recent Changes, 2008). Moreover, tracking scripts have been developed to monitor activity in WE Community Media space, to identify participation and early instances of collaboration. This data 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 data-gathering template by organizations, nodes and projects, and further customized for its own measurement and reporting requirements.
WE is a global Community-of-Practice whereby educator-authors use WE for their own motivated self-interest: by participating in and/or contributing to a self-organizing ecosystem aligned to the values of the Freedom Culture and education.
WE is also a free and open Community of Support for learning and experimenting with new and open-source technologies that widen access and reduce the cost and effort in connection with developing and revising OERs. For many educators working in a n-Ach/n-Aff profession, having access to a powerful 24/7 community help 'desk' is a game-changer, where they realize their personal and professional power and transformation, in becoming n-Ach/n-Pow educators.
In many educational settings, educators are asked to do more with less, by using technology. Yet, they consistently report high levels of stress, fear and anxiety tied to heavy workloads and organizational expectations for greater performance and productivity. It's a recipe for individual and organizational resistance and paralysis – regardless of motivational need. During WE's wiki skills training, educator-authors have expressed their lack of self-confidence regarding technology adoption, and this has mitigated against early wins, higher completion rates and better learner outcomes. By observing learner and facilitator correspondence in the wiki skills workshops, and examining when the drop-offs are occurring (i.e., tied to increases in learner anxiety), WE has urgently redesigned its courses to ease the learning transition from Newbie to Active Contributor. This is an essential precondition to WE's success, as Active Contributors have higher performance and contribution rates in the WE Community, Otago or other communities, create projects and facilitate project collaboration.
Inital attraction to the WE Community 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 community. They seek new leadership roles on- and off-wiki, and experience a renewal of self-confidence and personal mastery. Indeed, 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. Once they become Active Contributors, many educator-authors report the WE experience as 'addictive'.
Unlike McLelland's Theory, in the self-organizing wiki community, anything is possible: Roles and needs evolve over time, leading to transformative experiences: educator-authors are not locked into a specific motivational need dependent on their role.
Organizational Motivations, Accountabilities
As an educational institution, Otago originally came to WE after instructional designer Leigh Blackall was persuaded by Wayne Mackintosh, that WE was a more secure platform than WikiSpaces. (Blackall, 2007). Driven by a mix of n-Pow and n-Ach, Blackall was able to find a stable platform for his organization's needs. His n-Aff component comes from his relationship with the open source community and willingness to contribute to its growth and development, which in turn reinforces his n-Pow. Limited collaboration is in evidence, mostly due to the stage of development for the WE Community, Otago and various down-level communities. The project is still quite young, wiki skills training is in full swing and there there isn't a lot of content. But that is changing quickly.
Otago's leadership has been reinforced through an executive decision to fully embrace WE and spearhead a globally-leading, made-on-New Zealand collaborative OER effort (WikiEducator Heywire8, 2008). This is based partly on the success of its instructional design unit which has been actively working with social media/learning technologies including WE, and engaging Otago teachers and stakeholders on- and off-line, locally and globally.
Otago faculty have expressed concerns about OER quality, reverting edits, and WE/Otago site vandalism. The open nature of the community helps to protect it from 'risks' such as vandals and hackers.
The open environment 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)
Challenges abound in terms of how a large group of faculty, instructional designers and other stakeholders will conduct themselves in a WE/Otago community. There are issues of public and private communications; the discipline of speaking with one voice, professional boundaries and the fine line between WE & Otago accountability regarding increasing participation and sustaining meaningful and cost-effective project collaboration. For example, how to reconcile n-Pow Otago faculty heads who don't have adequate wiki skills; or originally n-Ach instructional designers active in WE's community, and now motivated by n-Pow, yet having to be n-Ach in Otago's organizational culture.
(Devil's Advocacy) - Hippie Era Motivation Theory Meets the Digital Age
McLelland's Theory of Motivation is plausible with a few caveats:
WE is a large online community, not a large bureaucracy
McLelland's original research focused on the motivation of managers in a large, complex bureaucracy. 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, instructional designers motivated by a n-Ach/n-Pow (within their own projects). Perhaps some folks in the HR department are motivated by 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 few barriers to entry, other than learning basic wiki skills. The self-organizing nature of the wiki enables a faster response to emerging economic, political, social and other forces. It does not have a traditional management structure – instead, an elected member council and few simple rules governing user behavior. (In the case of a WE/Otago wiki, it operates slightly differently (as previously discussed), but not as a complex bureaucracy.)
A 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 can exercise his/her power to rally others to a project, the WE Community will recognize his/her efforts as an indicator of the seriousness of the project. The WE Community will then devote greater resources to assist in collaborative project development. In this role, strategic leaders of the WE Community recognize this as an opportunity to extend their influence while continuing to build the WE Community. (n-Pow/n-Aff)
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 source, wiki community of educators.
Motivations & Unobtrusive Measures: Are Occurrences Deceiving?
Content analysis may not be able to accurately determine which specific motivations are occurring. One-on-one, face-to-face interviews and subsequent interpretation may yield the best information and insight as to which motivations are present. Even then, an educator-author may not be in touch with his /her feelings and/or motivations – to the extent that s/he can relay them accurately to the investigator.
Open Source Values & Dynamic Community Energy
The open-source values of WE draw people into the Community and gives them a fairly consistent supportive experience which is not always the case in a bureaucracy. This 'experience' enhances positive interdependence and promotive interaction, where 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 draws people in further. I have experienced a sense of pride and ownership in belonging to the WE Community, and I want to do my best to help it, when I can. While my motivation was initially a n-Ach, it has now become a hybrid n-Pow/n-Ach/n-Aff at different times, as required.
As of December 2008, there does not appear to be a lot of wiki collaboration in WE, in terms of materials developed for actual courses in actual classes. Otago is one of the few examples of collaboration, both internal to its project teams and externally on the wiki.
There is considerable concern in the Community about the extent of collaboration thus far (given some users n-Aff/n-Ach motivation for joining WE in the first place). While educator-authors collaborate in on- and off-line correspondence and meetings, a quick check of almost any project's "page history", will reveal a significant lack of collaboration. (Google Groups Increasing Collaboration, 2008)
Conversely, collaboration on WE is measured differently, in that collaboration takes place in multiple forms – online, offline, in threaded discussions and presentations. For example, if a WikiEducator learned about a new innovation in a Google Thread from one of his peers, and then applied it to his/her project, that might well stand a test for meaningful collaboration. Moreover, if there is only one editor per page, is it meaningful to say that no collaboration is happening? Or, did it happen in a different forum / format?
This lack of collaboration may simply be where WE is in terms of its current strategy roll-out, or it may be something deeper and troubling in terms of meeting the motivational needs of WikiEducators.
Outcome Measures: Validity and Reliability
As WikiEducator presides over the establishment of sub-domain communities (i.e., otago.wikieducator.org), will the outcome measures from my intervention be valid and reliable? I'm questioning it, because of the differing host environment and organizational culture (i.e., Otago is an educational institution, distinct from an open-source wiki), whereas the WE project is currently a project of the Commonwealth of Learning (which serves as WE's infrastructure support and home base). As of December 2008, the WE Project is in its early stages of governance formulation and policy development.
Active Contributors are defined as 100 edits per month, but that may be meaningless if the contributions are not of high quality. One educator-author may tinker with text 100 times (as I have done with this paper), but it may pale in comparison to an educator author Ph.D. who pastes a 5,000 word article, the basis of which will be an article for the Harvard Business Review. David Wiley's OER Handbook for Educators represents one of the greatest contributions to WE thus far, but he hasn't been active on the wiki in November /December 2008. Does he not fit the Active Contributor label? Also, when WE/Otago goes into effect, will the same measures for Active Contributor be in effect, or will it change, and on what basis?
(Implications for Action) - Where Do WE Go From Here?
One of the challenges in using Qualitative Data Analysis (Content Analysis), is a danger to "mis-classify observations to support [my] emerging hypothesis." (Babbie, 1998).
In line with the development of a revised wiki skills training workshop with greater facilitator support, I will be analyzing the content of on- and off-line communications, as well as WE statististics and community performance over time (taking into account the three outcome measures).
A challenge to the validity of this intervention, is whether or not the wiki skills training designed for the WE Community is appropriate for the Otago Polytechnic educational community consisting of faculty, instructional designers and other stakeholders. A physical institution has different 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.
Attention will have to be paid to dropout rates in the wiki skills workshops, to ensure that support for the overall WE/Otago effort does not falter. After all, this is not a global wiki, but a local wiki connected globally, but 'owned' by an educational institution. There will likely be more vigilance about the completion of wiki skills learning contracts (i.e., signed, delivered and completed), as they have a critical role to play in helping new users become more Active Contributors, and become the base of the WE/Otago Community-of-Practice. Learners in the wiki skills workshop will have to develop an educational resource that they will actually use in their teaching environment (vs. a generic OER). Learners may also be required to map out where the resistance will be in their departments and roles, to more easily anticipate where changes have to occur, in order for sustainable growth of Active Contributors in the WE/Otago wiki.
Within Otago, there is also likely to be greater resistance to the adoption of one technology over another, if only for organizational cultural reasons. Moreover, while collaboration may be seen as a positive for the WE Community, it may be seen as a shove in the direction of being a 'tall poppy' (i.e, in New Zealand, the tall poppies get cut first, so folks are reluctant to speak out or be the leader).
Some individuals in departments that lead WE/Otago may be more focused on n-Pow, which in turn may be a bruising experience for other departments with a n-Pow, or n-Ach orientation which get involved at a later date.
An important concern is the extent to which a project manager in an educational institution, yet connected to the wiki project, would need to be of a n-Pow orientation to be most effective (McLelland, 1976). If such project managers were first involved in collaborative project development, the possibility of them overpowering later-arriving managers and project teams could be high. This could threaten the success of a young wiki community, which is capable of supporting high performance with folks from all points on the motivational need spectrum. (In future, perhaps another intervention might be appropriate, such as a community-builder, facilitator.)
Otago will use WE's statistics to measure community performance and project outcomes, but it will also have to generate statistics which have meaning for its own users, project outcomes and Otago community growth. Then, it will be comparing kiwis to kiwis, not kiwis to the global WE Community.
(Conclusion) - The Control Paradox and a Paradigm Shift
As a community-driven and open platform for peer learning and participatory action learning: to access and share ideas, content and practices for technology innovation; and to collaboratively develop, share, customize, localize, and re-use OERs.
McLelland's theory is elegant and makes sense, however there are significant limitations. He developed his theory before the Internet was developed; an innovation that has revolutionized the world of work and play, and the distribution of power, a form of energy. Taken to the next level, Linux/free software/open-source experience: users directly experience freedom and the power of their own numbers, magnified and amplified through technology, global networks, and a complex, self-organizing social learning ecosystem.
The paradox in the wiki environment, is that if one gives up control, one gains a greater sense of power and influence, self-confidence and mastery. Translated to the language of the organization, going in the direction of the open source WE, yields high productivity gains, faster time-to-market and a pool of highly-motivated knowledge workers – working at a higher potential.
My major shift in this project is understanding how to move from the general to the specific, and focus directly on a single educational institution. For example, in thinking about how one department with a n-Pow vs a later one with a n-Ach, I inadvertently stumbled on the fact that resistance to change would come into effect, and potentially upset the entire project if it was not dealt with properly. There could be a whole raft of interventions (and research) to deal with this dynamic.
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 (yes, receiving WikiArtisan status was important to me), I gained a greater sense of the importance of 'power' in the community. However, as a community-builder in a global self-organizing ecosystem, I realized that I could not do it alone. I decided to let go of the impulse to control, to persuade, cajole and nudge people towards the finish line. Instead, I started planting seeds here and there, and only supported folks who took my ideas and their ideas and took them to the next level. The results have been amazing and transformative: for others and myself. In the great 'wiki-way', I have shared my learning with, and coached others (even by posting this Masters paper on a very public wiki). I am modeling the wiki way for others, who are replicating my lead to build their own communities-of-practice, within and external to the wiki.
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 experiencing 'affiliation', openness and connection. 'That' is what draws them into the wiki, and keeps them there. 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 bigger and more meaningful, than they currently experience, especially at their educational institutions / learning organizations. Personally, I can attest to that too.