Let's Get Started Discussing MOOCs


Hi all. A bit about my experiences with MOOCs: Have attended
quite a few MOOCs on different platforms e.g. Futurelearn, Coursera, Canvas,
Iversity, EDx, Open2Study, Udacity etc. So…… guess you could say I am a moocer :grinning: . I like participating in MOOCs, do the exams on some of them and just surf around on others. I actually use them to learn – often stuff on a subject of interest or themes I need
knowledge of for professional matters.

I have to admit that I seldom use the forums for collaborative matters………… why
not?..… too time consuming and no clear value of participation I guess – I think
the social constructive aspect of the massive learning pedagogy, that is
evolving in MOOCs, is not mature yet.


Hi @Ulla, Nice to meet you here.
I think MOOC designers have to listen carefully to your and others expressing that the great ideas in collaborative pedagogy is not something that you just do. You participate in a (or: some do to some MOOCs) because you want to browser the shelves for useful info and learning opportunities - but not necessarily with a genuine social learning agenda. Among many other things MOOCs are sweet stores for free - and discipline and the hard work of learning is not always what to want to put into it.
Good point. Ulla.


Hi again @Zerove . Good expression “MOOCs are sweet stores for free”. That`s precisely what they are sometimes :grinning: . But they can and do provide deep learning as well, lots of serious learning is going out there, where people put hard effort into subjects to learn and good enthusiastic teachers, or to be more precise, teaching teams create great learning experiences.

  • of course there are big differences in the pedagogical efforts and professional quality, but nevertheless it has never been more easy to learn, to get a grip of new knowledge - I hope that the great expectations to open internet based learning including MOOCs will come through - that we will be able to develop learning and teaching designs which include meaningful and appreciated collaborative methods which will make us able to meet the big global challenges - climate changes etc.


Thought I’d add my thoughts. I have 4 little vignettes that capture my experiences of learning in MOOCs - some good, some not so

  1. Social Media on Canvas Network #CNSoMe
    At the end of a module there was a quiz designed to determine knowledge of Twitter practices and terminology. I consider myself a fairly proficient user of Twitter but I was unable to pass the quiz at the first, or possibly even second, attempt. Unsurprisingly, I disengaged from the MOOC not long afterwards. It was a fairly pointless activity only included because it’s design feature of the platform.

  2. eLearning and Digital Cultures #edcmooc
    The course team sent a pre-course email extending an ‘early welcome’ and encouraging learners to try out some of the social media tools that they anticipated using. A whole bunch of savvy enthusiastic learners promptly started using the course hashtag and initiated a Facebook group. The alternative peer initiated spaces that developed afforded great levels of connection and support and in effect become the key learning space for many participants. It provided a heady mix mix of social media and peer to peer learning. Besides, the course discussion forum was so crowded.

  3. Carpe Diem MOOC
    As mentioned in another thread, the MOOC design involved putting participants into pre-determined groups. I didn’t last more than a week. I felt constrained and coerced. I wanted of find my own group, or at least see other groups. Very claustrophobic and dis-empowering.

  4. Open Learning Design Studio MOOC
    During the first convergence session (an open Google hangout session) a fellow participant posted a Twitter link to pictures of her recent camping trip. This simple act triggered conversation, which helped spawn the development of a supportive, and on-going, learning network. It’s the seemingly trivial things that go such a long way in breaking down barriers/finding connection and building trust.


@crumphelen Your recount sounds very familiar with some of my experiences.
Thanks for putting it so clearly :smile:


@crumphelen You made it! Good to see you here. Thanks for sharing your experience of MOOCs.

I have had a similar experience with quizzes. I recently took a quiz which I failed to pass more than once and I couldn’t see where I was going wrong. There was no feedback. Ultimately I realised that it was because the quiz question asked for a numerical answer and I was writing ‘three’ instead of 3. Once I put in 3, my answer was accepted!
Multi-choice questions are so hard to get right!


Started on CCK08, and 09, both of which were fascinating, immersive experiences, and led to collaborative research. Later spent some time on the first Edinburgh MOOC, which I found rather frustrating, and difficult to engage with - haphazard and lack of connection, so I baled out. And was pointed towards the ModPo MOOC, which I still think is one of the very best - “a live MOOC talking” or “close readings of texts” is how I summed it up.

I followed some of the first AI MOOC, early on, and within its limitations, found it excellent - really delivers real-time feedback, which is one of the gold standards of good learning opportunities.

Earlier than all this, I was a facilitator on Knowledge in the Public Interest’s 72-hour JAM - really a mini-MOOC, which I also found excellent, and a key example of what can be done in open learning.


Lots of interesting questions - one comment - it struck me that CCK08 could be seen as an exemplar of a “research MOOC” - one in which ideas in progress (‘connectivism’ in this case) are put out for comment and engagement. This is well suited to open learning, as it doesn’t presume answers, or even an establish body of knowledge, but rather puts some thoughts out for testing, puling apart, and creating new solutions. A valuable ‘take’ on research-based learning, no?


Yeah, I buy into that :smile:


@Zerove Scaffolding is crucial, for sure, and there are a range of ‘genres’ out there.

Some of the key factors that I can see emerging are

Overbearing sequence (the first Future Learn course, and many of the ones that followed)

Live (audio) conversations, mixed with virtual media (ModPo)

Research work in progress (CCK08)

Radically decentered (Rhizomatic Learning), although often underpinned by thematically prescriptive ideas.

and many others …


@clucilla (@Zerove) Agreed, small groups are what excites me most in MOOCs. The question is, how can you find, establish, coagulate, play around, leave, a good small group, and what tools, platforms, social media, aggregators, profile tools, etc work best for you to get you connected to new people, so that you can get started.

Social scaffolding? (The alternative is 'blind-dating in the dark" which I have found on some MOOCs, and consequently left after a few days - two weeks at most).


@Zerove It has been said that ‘any teacher who can be replaced by a computer deserves to be’. Perhaps the same applies to the GB OU - any ‘open learning that feels undermined by MOOCs deserves to be’, no?

Of course there are open (‘emergent’) MOOCs, and kindergarten MOOCs, and Marketing MOOCs, and Corporate Social Responsibility MOOCs, etc - many of which are just trying to piggyback on the MOOC brand, and have no interest in open learning (or learning at all, really) so one has to be careful about which MOOCs you are talking about.


Thanks @dustcube You make a very good point. I think, however, that you are mixing up two different matters. Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer should. Any OU that can be replaced by a MOOC should. But the OU supports a lot of learners who do not get what they are looking for on the MOOC market - and who, then, will carry the public responsibility? OU can run MOOCs - and are - and its a political priority that they continue to serve the public. If OU’s business model is undermined by the private market the victims will be the public and the people who are depending on the scaffolding OU offers.
I think lifelong learning (and education) is a human right - for that to be so edu has to be free of charge (at least to a wide degree).
So the point being: the ones who are abandon OU and opt for MOOCs are not the same ones that are robed of their edu.
At least that was my reflection :smile:



@crumphelen Hi, interesting examples. On ‘3’ … I have always found that a bit of ‘personal colour’ facilitates connections and engagement. Like … what did you add to your last (tinned tuna) salad to make it more interesting? In my case, tomatoes, green olives, and a touch of home-made salad dressing (on home made wholewheat bread).


@Zerove Good points. And … I found the first (?) OU MOOC that I did attend (some time back now) to be cumbersome, difficult to get into (lots of ‘in-house’ platforms that took too long for me to learn), so I left early (which is fine, my acupuncturist put his finger on it when he said - “You must be so fortunate to be involved in MOOCs - because the only people you engage with are people who choose to be there, just to learn, and for no other reason” (i.e. not necessarily money, certificates, status, ‘knowledge’, ‘expertise’ etc).

In fact some of my best MOOC experiences have been where I have engaged with new people and new ideas in equal measure - so not over-serious on becoming more ‘Learned’, more focus on the pleasure of learning, and mixing with fellow learners.


Exactly. That’s why I’m always amazed by the amount of events I go to, learning included (maybe especially), that fail to acknowledge this and do nothing in the way of meet n greet or icebreaker activities.
Last week I attended a workshop on academic writing and the facilitator had emailed beforehand to solicit 3 pieces of information. She then used this in an icebreaker activity that involved mingling around the room trying to find the person who matched the info on the sheet. It was just your research interests. Nothing fancy. But the activity was really energizing and all the more effective because a large part of the group had been together earlier in the week and not interacted with each other at all. Just sat around a table taking notes as a tutorial was delivered.
For the life of me I can’t see why MOOCs -especially ones that emphasize social learning - can’t develop these kinds of activities. It’s so simple and it makes such a difference.

BTW _black olives and anchovies but it’s been a while. I’m a bit of a salad dodger, if truth be told.


@ryberg Interesting point about MOOCs for informal education. In Malaysia, it’s the other way around as the Malaysia MOOCs initiative is a top-down a.k.a. governmental project in collaboration with public universities. I have been involved with the development and currently teaching using one of the MOOCs. In my class-settings, I use the xMOOCs as students materials before class & re-visit any topic that students have problems with. The tricky part is when it comes to participating in open discussions/learning activities & tasks - especially to be involved in students’ online discussions as they are quite a big number - can’t seem to be more involved. So, what I do is shift the class discussions in a Facebook Group to make it more manageable :sweat_smile:


@crumphelen what a great way to stay on top of your own learning (and possibly find a pattern in it afterwards). I wonder whether I can bring the past into the present and trace back my own MOOC-steps. From now on I will add this approach to my Plog-approach (progress log, or daily dairy of things).


@dustcube I sometimes wonder whether there is something like a Zone of Proximal Social Development (cfr Zone of proximal development, but then from a social profiling viewpoint). Where people do link with each other if there is a specific (mutual) trigger. I have been wondering about it, starting from a personal perspective: how do I decide who to connect with, both in formal and informal settings. Who are my friends (professional and personal), and when thinking about it, there seems to be a pattern. One of the people I immediately could follow from an informal perspective was a new colleague Bart Rienties, and as we were talking, he shared papers that he wrote on a slightly similar subject.

Bart Rienties (now OU-related) started investigating why people connect. I followed an interesting seminar that he gave, and can be seen here: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?s=29&whichevent=2377&option=both&record=0

Some references:
Hommes, J., Rienties, B., de Grave, W., Bos, G., Schuwirth, L., & Scherpbier, A. (2012). Visualising the invisible: a network approach to reveal the informal social side of student learning. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 17(5), 743-757. doi: 10.1007/s10459-012-9349-0
Retrievable from: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10459-012-9349-0

Rienties, B., Héliot, Y., & Jindal-Snape, D. (2013). Understanding social learning relations of international students in a large classroom using social network analysis. Higher Education, 66(4), 489-504. Retrievable from


@ryberg @helmi.norman in a school I work with we did/do something similar: using parts of (several) MOOC as some kind of flipped classroom approach. Where the high quality videos are a nice addition to the content of classroom lessons, and the discussions the students reflect on some of the materials. My colleagues from that school started doing this a few months ago. I will share our starting point, feel free to share your material if you like.