September 1996

Root Page of Article: Barriers to Getting Educators Online, by Denise Ethier and Jennifer Gold

Barriers to Sustaining Community: Uncertainty of the Value

Hiltz and Turoff, writing in The Network Nation, suggest that the commitment to a particular conferencing system may be defined in accordance with social exchange theory. That is, that no participant will use a system unless the rewards are seen as greater than the costs. Furthermore, factors that will increase the rewards include the ratio of items received to items sent, and the importance of communication with members of the specific system in comparison with others not on the system (Hiltz & Turoff, 1993).

One NCIPnet participant, a special education teacher, commented that she was excited by the community aspect of NCIP and feels there is real potential, but she does not feel connected, since she herself has not made the commitment. Another participant, a parent advocate, concurred. She stated that although the community aspect is the biggest draw for her, the feeling of community did not happen right away. In fact, she said she felt much more comfortable after about three months of logging on every day. NCIPnet participants keep telling us that the most valuable feature of NCIPnet is the sense of community they find there. NCIP has determined that this sense of community is more likely felt by those who are most active on NCIPnet. As Hiltz and Turoff describe, in order for a participant to feel commitment to a community and log-on frequently, a participant must feel that the time and effort spent to get online is worth it.

NCIPnet has actively tried to increase interaction among network participants. To accomplish this, we sponsor special online events hosted by education and other experts. NCIPnet helps educators communicate with people in the field who have more experience and who ordinarily may be inaccessible to them. Another strategy is to infuse conversation with resources when possible, and to provide links to other sources of information both on and off the network. --

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