🙂

Now that I am not able to attend any of the synchronous meetings of my group it feels like being a ghost group member. So I started to wonder whether this ghost-like feeling extends to online education overall.

From an instructor perspective there is a long-standing discussion on how an online instructor comes across, as a sage, guide, or ghost. According to Mazzolini and Maddison (2003), e.g. instructors who post more frequently in online education are perceived as “more enthusiastic”, for example. Yet, more frequent postings by instructors do not necessarily result in greater student participation rates; and very frequent postings by instructors even result in lower numbers of postings by students once the instructor starts to dominate the discussion. Perhaps more importantly, they also found that the type of posting (i.e. not answering questions as a “sage” but encouraging the discussion itself as a “guide”) made a difference in engaging learners. Something to remember for our MOOCs for sure; and MOOCs are in fact the topic of our group work 🙂

[As a side note, our humanitarian logistics MOOC has been updated also with new topics and is up and running again! Check it out at https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/humanitarian-logistics and join the 2260 other people from 124 countries who are currently enrolled in it.]

From the student perspective, “ghosts” in online education refer to “ghost accounts” for the purposes of cheating (Hollis, 2018). Not quite the feeling I have here 🙂 Rather, what I was wondering about is whether you would start feeling like a ghost yourself if contributing week after week to the documents your group writes, and watching their recorded interactions, while not actually being able to participate in those synchronous meetings. There are quite a lot of studies on how using additional synchronous media incl. messaging apps would improve the engagement of learners in online education, but right now it is in fact exactly the aspect of not being able to participate in the synchronous bits that makes me feel almost left out. It makes me wonder whether there is any study on this situation in light of course drop-out rates; and if there is any such relationship, how we can overcome it and keep people engaged after all.


Hollis, L. P. (2018). Ghost‐students and the new wave of online cheating for community college students. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2018(183), 25-34.

Mazzolini, M., & Maddison, S. (2003). Sage, guide or ghost? The effect of instructor intervention on student participation in online discussion forums. Computers & Education, 40(3), 237-253.

Ghost member