I have been musing how to explain what I think is the relationship between the tools we use and the user. The diagram above is a first attempt at showing this. I am thinking that as individuals we are plotted along the user continuum, but this is not a fixed position as it depends largely on a combination of our experience and the particular context for wanting to use the technology. For example, although I have used various online technologies for a number of years, I am at times a â€˜simple userâ€™ when there is a weak link between the activity and my desire to be involved. In this instance, it might be that an appropriate technology as a mail list that I sign up for that forwards a message every month or so. Clearly, it is unlike in this instance that I will be bothered to come to grips with a fully blown Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). On the other hand, an Ultraversity researcher has a lot invested in their degree as it is a big commitment and they are far more likely to be prepared to learn how to use a VLE because of this.
I think this is where some of the large scale professional communities for teachers have gone wrong in that there was an assumption that everyone would be willing to become a sophisticated user and this just isnâ€™t so. So what is the way forward for such groups, well I would suggest it is an acceptance that wee need to use both simple tools and those that are feature rich, but allow the users to chose. For example, a hotseat type discussion on an open Blog could spread the reach of such events well beyond the â€˜typicalâ€™ user group of enthusiasts. Or a mail-list on topics that perhaps only come to life on an annual basis for a couple of weeks. And a fully blown VLE for accredited courses and programmes where the pull is strong and users are prepared to invest the time and effort to become sophisticated users.
It might be an idea before planning any event to do some user scenarios and think will likely participants be prepared to be sophisticated users or not. If the answer is not, then which of the tools