Shifting forms of Engagement: Volunteer Learning in Online Citizen Science

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Issue CSCW, p.36 (2020)


<p>Open collaboration platforms involve people in many tasks, from editing articles to analyzing datasets. To facilitate mastery of these practices, communities offer a number of learning resources, ranging from project-defined FAQs to individually-oriented search tools and communal discussion boards. However, it is not clear which project resources best support participant learning, overall and at different stages of engagement with the project. We draw on Sørensen’s framework of forms of presence to distinguish three forms of engagement with learning resources: authoritative, agent-centered and communal. We analyzed trace data from the GravitySpy citizen-science project using a mixed-effects logistic regression with volunteer performance as an outcome variable. The findings suggest that engagement with authoritative resources (e.g., those constructed by project organizers) facilitates performance initially. However, as tasks become more difficult, volunteers seek and benefit from engagement with their own agent-centered resources and community generated resources. These findings suggest a broader scope for the design of learning resources for online communities.</p>

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