One of the things that is interesting is that this course is supposed to be participatory, and, as I commented on a blog posting on whether CCK08 is failing, maybe there is a difference between a lurker and a bad student. I think in my earlier post about being a mediocre student, when I decided to keep lurking (although I didn't use that term at the time) although I just wasn't that into the course, I grappled with the question of whether it is okay to be a passive student in this particular context.
It felt bad to me to be a lame student, and certainly if I were a registered student expecting a grade then I would get what I deserved. But what do I deserve in this context? What happens when there is no carrot or stick other than what I want to learn, contribute, and how I want to connect? This is learning in a pure sense, unmotivated by grades, getting credit for the course, or any external measure. (OK, the experience has become part of my sabbatical project, but it doesn't have to be.) How can success or failure be assessed for me (only by me, I guess), or for the course (by each participant)?
And as a teacher who is being a voluntary student in this experience, I really don't have any of the student's experience of the fuzzy end of the lollipop of power: of getting grades that seem unfair (too low or too high), of having to do assignments that seem pointless or stupid or take up too much of my time, of having to listen to someone else drone on about whatever little thing it is that they have spent their life studying, of not being able to do what I want when I want to. That's life, we tell our students, and part of what you're learning is to be able to adapt to the real world of deadlines, arbitrariness, and, well, power relations. Learning to be a good student means learning how to negotiate what ideally is a well-designed mock-up of a real-world situation, with some room for do-overs, hopefully with some valuable guidance from someone who knows something you don't.
Does social networking change the landscape of the real world? Sure. It adds a new level of discourse, one that's being figured out and revised as it develops. It's a moving target, and our students will shape it. I've certainly learned a lot by lurking in CCK08 about how to use social networking/Web 2.0 tools in my teaching. And in order to gain that knowledge, I am grateful to the "good" students who have been dutifully doing the work so I could watch the experiment until I felt comfortable enough to start jumping in. (I think I will also be more aware of my f2f students' different levels of participation after this experience.)
Whether the course is a failure or a success for the registered students, or in general, on what terms? It was done in the spirit of an experiment, to see what would happen, and so in that way it is a huge, smashing, big, messy success, because a lot of things happened. It certainly provided a useful model for this mediocre student/avid lurker. And it ain't over 'til it's over.