What is MBA Lurking?
MBA lurking is what a subset of MBA students do while enrolled in an MBA program. MBA student lurkers are the nonparticipants. They rarely take part in class, team, or online discussions and they seldom provide meaningful feedback when ask to do so. They fill a seat and use program resources while contributing little, if anything, to the learning of others.
MBA Lurking – Online and In Class
As a blogger, I see evidence of online lurking on a regular basis. For example, I provide MyeEMBA readers a way to comment on posted articles. Commenting requires that the reader write something in a comment box. During the first six months of this year, with almost 6,000 page views, only 11 different people posted 13 comments. While this may not be conclusive evidence of lurking, it does indicate that most MyeEMBA readers are not willing to share their thoughts or make comments after reading posted articles.
On the other hand, lurking is more than an online issue. A comment on last month’s MyeEMBA article, “Independent Learner Skills May Be Critical to an MBA’s Success,” reminded me that lurking is also an issue in MBA classes. Mike, a part-time MBA student at Georgia Tech, commented via MBA Focus, a LinkedIn discussion group, that many of his classmates are “content to earn their grades and not do anything else.” While Mike’s comment related to independent learning skills, I believe the lurking behavior of his classmates is what led him to this conclusion.
MBA Lurking and Collaborative Learning
MBA lurking behavior is particularly troublesome in a collaborative learning environment because this behavior adversely affects both the lurker and the lurker’s class peers. From the lurker’s standpoint, nonparticipation reduces the opportunities for networking, demonstrating one’s knowledge and engagement in the learning process – all of which can adversely affect program and career performance. From a peer perspective, lurkers are not sharing their knowledge and experiences, so MBA classmates do not have access to some potentially valuable learning resources. Overall, this situation yields a suboptimal learning experience for the program’s participants. The adverse impact is even more significant when a large number of lurkers are in a class or there is no effort by faculty members or class peers to manage lurker behaviors.
MBA Lurkers – Who and Why
Identifying an MBA lurker is much easier than changing the lurker’s behavior. MBA students who are persistent nonparticipants are what I am calling MBA lurkers. Changing their behavior requires some knowledge of the cause. Some of the causes may include: laziness, personality type, insecurity, lack of interest in the subject matter, lack of preparation and lack of risk taking, to mention a few. Understanding some of the causes can help when faculty members or students try addressing such behaviors.
Addressing MBA Lurker Behavior
Most MBA faculty members are aware of the MBA lurker concept, although they may not refer to it as such. They often design their courses, assignments and grading to address lurker behaviors. Some of their efforts include making class participation part of the grade, calling on students during class discussions, using peer feedback for developmental purposes, and individual counseling. The success of these efforts often depends on class size, the number of lurkers and the determination of the faculty member.
In a collaborative educational environment, most students expect to learn from each other and to contribute to the learning of others. In this environment, MBA lurkers are behaving unfairly toward their peers because they are giving them something less than they deserve or expect, which is the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Minimizing the impact of lurkers requires a concentrated effort on the part of both faculty and students. While it is not always possible for MBA students to affect the behavior of other MBA students, it is possible to address the issue of lurking with feedback and engagement.
- Feedback – Constructive or developmental peer feedback is a powerful tool when done well. Since most MBA programs provide their students with the opportunity to give peer feedback, MBA students can address the nonparticipation behaviors of classmates by referencing the undesirable behavior when providing feedback. In programs where feedback opportunities are not available, individual teams or workgroups can adopt their own feedback system. In either case, the feedback should focus on the behavior and its impact and not on the individual.
- Engagement – Periodically engaging the lurkers in conversation or asking questions of them can be a way of addressing nonparticipation behaviors. Doing so can be a way of getting the lurker to participate.
Remember that lurkers are not keeping up their end of the implied learning contract. They are adding little or no value to your learning. By addressing their behavior, learning can improve for everyone involved in the MBA program. Moreover, since you will likely deal with lurking behavior throughout your career, learning how to deal with lurkers, whether in the classroom or the workplace, is an important skill to develop.
Is MBA lurking an issue? Do you have suggestions about how to deal with lurkers? Please share your thoughts by adding a comment below.
PLEASE TAKE A SECOND TO RATE THIS ARTICLE BY CLICKING ON ONE OF THE STARS [rate]
About the Author: Dr. Rodney Alsup is the creator of the MyeEMBA blog. His goal is to help MBA students live and work smarter while they earn their MBA.
Image from the Zazzle online store.