Yesterday I enrolled and began participating in MOOC MOOC a week long, Massive Open Online Course about Massive Open Online Courses.

This is the first MOOC that I have participated in although I have been following the development and growth of the MOOC phenomenon for some time; aided by blog posts and tweets from the likes of Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, Jim Groom and Audrey Watters. My interest in such courses is obvious… just a short perusal of my blog will tell you that I have a vested interest in e-Learning, independent learning and learning pedagogies. I am currently writing up my research proposal as part of the Masters in Education I am undertaking. I am seeking to answer the following question:

To what extent can virtual courses support the development of independent learning beyond ‘real time’ curriculum delivery?

I hope that spending the week participating in MOOC MOOC will provide additional ideas and lines of enquiry, as I continue to develop and refine my thinking around both online learning and learner independence. I am also interested in the role such courses can play within the education landscape and the challenge that they can pose to traditional-systematised models of education. I hold strong beliefs about learner independence and feel that we are currently reaching a point where learning has the potential to be more democratised and available to learners, free from economic and geographical constraints. Moreover, I see potential in MOOCs to be a piece of the puzzle in enabling learners to be autonomous; self-managing their learning pathway. I’m not sure how far this view reflects others’ thinking and that is something I hope to discern over the course of the week.

I am also interested to see how a MOOC is/can be different from any other online course? What is the balance/relationship between pedagogy and technology? What is most important within the ‘Massive Open Online Course’? Scale? Openness? Online? Or something else? I have many questions and I don’t expect to necessarily come out the other end with answers but I do expect my thinking to have moved forwards.

Day One: Orientation

What follows here is a collection of my thoughts after the first day of MOOC MOOC

Having enrolled, participants were invited to edit their profile, sort notification preferences and introduce themselves, all within the confines of the Canvas LMS. While I understand the decision to use such a platform to structure the course, it immediately raised questions. Canvas certainly looks nice but is no way different to Blackboard or Moodle in its infrastructure and approach. Does the use of such platforms limit MOOCs? Are our perceptions of what a MOOC is/can be being defined by previous experiences of online courses that have and continue to be delivered within such platforms? How is MOOC MOOC different from any other online course? I don’t have an answer yet but as with all learning, I believe it’s imperative to look beyond the technology. If we do that then, what we are left with is a discussion and a selection of articles to read. Not particularly ground breaking but then it is only day one. I tried to engage with the forum discussion, introducing myself and responding to one/two other people’s posts. However, I found myself becoming irked by the platform; the threaded structure and limited functionality made the process cumbersome. Furthermore, given that a Twitter social was scheduled for 6pm, I have to ask what the point of using the forum was? I am reminded of a discussion I had a while ago about the value of distribution and multiple platforms. However, I remain unconvinced. For each activity I feel it is best to pick one medium (hopefully the one that is best suited to the task).

Finding myself a little underwhelmed, I decided to spend some time reading. A number of articles were posted, several of which I had not encountered before and others that I had. In this process, what a MOOC is began to reveal itself; not only in terms of varying definitions, which I plan to explore as the course continues, but also in terms of my role as participant/independent learner. Writing this on day two, I have already had a number of discussions on Twitter and via a Google Doc about the difference between cMOOCs and xMOOCs. There is clearly a history to be understood and a lot of information to be digested however it’s becoming clear that connecting, discussing, and debating is an integral feature of MOOCs. Dave Cormier says as much in the following video.

Now, a day and a half in, I have oriented, declared and sprinted head first into sharing, collaborating and debating with the network. Like I have experienced during my M.Ed studies, and with my own students, it is the dialogue that is most important. Perhaps then, a MOOC is nothing more than a beginning, a platform to jump off of? Each article, each activity a way to evolve thinking and generate further discussion?

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James Michie

Husband, Educator, Writer, Runner...

3 thoughts on “MOOC MOOC – Day One”

  1. Man, you can write. Let me jump in and say one of the ideas that gets lost in the discussion of the MOOC is the empowerment of the student to own and manage their own space. Siemens and Downs did that beautifully with gRSShopper. One thing those MOOCs were trying to figure out, and still drives me, is how to make the experience both individualized and communal. How do to allow folks to own their work, but still find aggregated conversations to build a sense of serendipitous juxtaposition.

    The idea to that aggregation can be smart and filtered, which is the genius behind Martha Burtis’s Assignments Repository. Aggregate people who did particular assignments into the same page with tutorials:

    Brilliant, it is actually very similar to Ravelry, the knitting community. It actually works, and I love the way aggregation becomes community in ways that focus on a common object of desire. You can see it here in an assignment to create an animated GIF

    Notice anyone can drop an assignment off to. You don;’t need to sign up for anything, drive-by assignment. I love it.

    I want to think the open architecture around something like that can be a theme others can create to make sharing through aggregation easier. But it probably won’t work, RSS will never die 🙂

    1. Agreed… it is particularly important I think for any online course, MOOC or not, to embrace the full meaning of ‘open’. Making all content public, aggregated and accessible is fundamental in my view to fostering participation. As Rheingold discusses in his article on peer-to-peer learning (, there is a desire and push for inter-dependent learning.

      While I am sure some learners are happy to simply be told the answers, many learners want to engage in active, participatory learning. The web may not have levelled the playing field but it has certainly disrupted the status quo with regard to the student/teacher relationship. Discussing this yesterday, I argued that we (educators) can no longer proliferate traditional transmission-based models of teaching and learning. I am a learner too and should therefore engage with my students at that level – working towards shared, collaborative learning journeys. I did just that with my A2 Media students this past year, with tremendous enjoyment and success.

      However, I think that the models of peer-to-peer, open learning that cMOOCs encourage and some of us are willing to engage in, are at the extreme end of the spectrum. xMOOCs demonstrate that educational institutions (and many educators) are not yet ready (or willing) to adopt progressive, student-centred pedagogies.

      I think that aggregation can work but is dependent on learner independence and technical expertise. For such approaches to work more effectively they need to be encouraged in primary and secondary classrooms, encouraging independent and inter-dependent learning. Give learners the tools and opportunity to develop open, peer-to-peer learning strategies. Additionally, aggregation can be intimidating. The ‘massive’ in MOOC can change to ‘monstrous’ quickly when a learner is presented with such a plethora of aggregated content. It is therefore important I think to focus on ‘networking’ and ‘clustering’ as key principles within a MOOC. Smaller groups encourage inter-dependence and by-proxy independence more effectively than trying to keep up with a massive-collective.

      I realise that the ‘open assignment’ and ‘daily create’ frameworks are the bedrock of ds106 but as you state “the pulse of ds106 happens through our communication on Twitter”. This suggests that networking is the absolute priority within such courses. (Love the ds106 bus BTW) This speaks to my beliefs about learning… dialogue is what is important, we learn and develop through reflection and communication. The meta-cognitive process is ultimately more important that creation or assessment. However, (ironically) it helps to have created something, around which a dialogue can be built.

      Think I’ve gone round in a circle there… I need to ruminate on this further…

  2. Hey James, thanks for pointing me to these posts of urs from 2012. I’m going to read them in order and respond as if we were live in the moocmooc course 🙂
    I just wanted to agree that I am not sure what is special about Canvas as a platform. I dislike any linear form of discussion forum and hate them on MOOCs. I tolerate the Coursera discussion forums simply because they allow for learner-created ones and email notifications, the combination of which usually results in my starting my own threads unrelated to the general discussion, or at least following some of those 🙂
    Looking forward to reading your next post

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