3.4 Patterns of participation

Activity 6

Timing: (allow 15 minutes)
  1. Think about your own patterns of participation in online conversations. When, why and how often do you participate, and how intensive is that participation?
  2. Look at Table 4 below, which is a collation of common patterns of online participation identified by Gilly Salmon (2002). Have you found a pattern that applies to yourself? Do you recognise the pattern in others that you come across online?

Table 4 Patterns of participation

Behaviours Response
Visits once a week, lots of activity, then disappears again until next week, or even the week after! Facilitators will nudge learners by email to encourage them to repeat their visits. Comment positively on the learner’s subsequent posts to further motivation.
Steady – visits most days for a short time. The facilitators will be encouraging these learners to support others – especially those that post very little. Try and post positive comments when the learners achieve this.
Always catching up: completes two weeks in one session, then disappears again for some time. The facilitators will suggest helpful ideas and summarise topics to help these learners. Join in any posts and comments to positively encourage the learners’ contributions.
Visits once a week, reading and contributing little. The facilitator will check that the learner can access the content correctly. Help to boost the learner’s confidence with positive, encouraging and friendly comments.
Inclined to post disembodied comments in a random way. The facilitators will be helping to steer this learner in a more structured direction. Help by supporting the learner with relevant responses.
Lives online; a prolific message writer who responds very rapidly. The facilitator will try to give these learners structured and specific roles. Support by including references to relevant comments from other learners to help integration.
Tendency to dominate discussion at certain times. The facilitator will offer structured roles for this learner. Again, try to support and encourage the learner to reflect on other learners’ comments.
Steals ideas without acknowledging. The facilitator will reinforce the importance of individual ideas. Support by actively including these learners when posting comments that acknowledge others.
Intelligent, a good communicator and playful online. The facilitator will ensure that these learners acknowledge and work well with others. Support by trying to keep the learner on a relevant topic.
Adapted from Salmon (2002)


It is important to bear in mind that these participation types are a way of understanding a vast array of different online behaviours, and so are inevitably very simplified. As such, you may have come across other ‘types’ than those mentioned above, or have found that the same people exhibit different behaviours at different times.

3.3 Maintaining the conversation

3.5 Social communication