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Mass Collaboration and Education


Springer New York LLC

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While massive online communities have drawn the attention of researchers and educators on their potential to support active collaborative work, knowledge sharing, and user-generated content, few studies examine participation in these communities at scale. The little research that does exist attends almost solely to adults rather than communities to support youths’ learning and identity development. In this chapter, we tackle two challenges related to understanding social practices that support learning in massive social networking forums where users engage in design. We examined a youth programmer community, called, that garners the voluntary participation of millions of young people worldwide. We report on site-wide distributions and patterns of participation that illuminate the relevance of different online social practices to ongoing involvement in the online community. Drawing on a random sample of more than 5000 active users of over a 3-month time period in early 2012, we examine log files that captured the frequency of three types of social practices that contribute to enduring participation: DIY participatory activities, socially supportive actions, and socially engaging interactions. Using latent transition analysis, we found (1) distinct patterns of participation (classes) across three time points (e.g., high networkers who are generally active, commenters who focus mainly on social participation, downloaders engaging in DIY participatory activities), (2) unique migration changes in class membership across time, (3) relatively equal gender representation across these classes, and (4) importance of membership length (or age) in terms of class memberships. In the discussion, we review our approach to analysis and outline implications for the design and study of online communities and tools for youth.



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