Welcome to the Hot Seat discussion on Massive Open Social Learning!


Yes, that is the hashtag for the conference in general so would be good to stick with that :smile:


“What do you get out of participating in MOOCs?”

Hi Barb - that’s a question which I expect everyone will have a different answer to. My answer is determined in part by being an independent consultant not attached to any institution. MOOCs have provided me with access to people and resources that I doubt I would have got otherwise. Most of my research colleagues and research publications are a result of participating in MOOCs. Having been a teacher all my working life I am really interested in pedagogy and MOOCs have challenged many aspects of teaching and learning.

You have said that you have bought into the idea that learning happens in practice. I agree. I think I can say that for the most part, in my MOOC experience, the significant practice for me has always happened outside of and after the MOOC rather than within in. Nowadays I almost always know immediately - within the first week - whether I will be fully engaged in the MOOC or not.

I don’t think you can go at MOOCs wrong. I don’t think there’s any one right way to go about them. I’d be interested to hear what others think about this. Thanks for the question. There’s a lot more I could say - but I’ll restrain myself :smile:


Dear Jeffrey,

Thanks for the question. It is for a very diverse group of family-members of clients in homes for mentally disordered people. These family-members are part of a participation council (MR) for family members who advice the local managers. In total they are with more then 1000 persons of a huge diversity of backgrounds as you can imagine. I am willing to answer more questions, but for me it is also a pretty new instrument to discover.

Kind regards, Sebo



That is a hefty size for a mooc; is the one you described the one you attended (and tried to learn from) or the one you are working on to develop / lead?



@Fleur I might be going off on a bit of a tangent here - but I am also interested in how structure and agency are defined in MOOCs. Some colleagues and I have done a bit of work on this in relation to our interest in emergent learning e.g. Williams, R., Mackness, J. & Gumtau, S. (2012) Footprints of Emergence. Vol. 13, No. 4. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.

We have considered this in relation to complexity theory, social learning theory and the theory of affordances, but have been particularly interested in the practical implications for the design and experience of learning in MOOCs.

Can you say more about how you think Bourdieu and Foucault’s theories translate into practice in MOOCs and the implications for learning?


Agreed; we put the conference tag #NLC2016 in the banner image on top of this Hot Seat as well.

To this point about #mooc and #moocs, I think the former is more heavily used, though depending on the tool used, you may get different discussions depending on the specific one(s) searched or followed.


Jeffrey, it sure is. No it is not the one I attended, but the one I am about to develop. Someone else in the company will moderate it. We are still in the pre-fase and doing some research on how to do it. But I think it will be very interesting to see what will happen in the community and I can imagine it will also be a way of trial and error in finding the right modus. Not in least because not all the participants will be digital experts. But I think that is also one of the interesting things about MOOCs, it actually makes clear that learning is something the learner does.



Hello All

My first MOOC was the #change11 MOOC, which I loved but struggled to fully immerse myself in. I wish I’d had the foresight @jennymackness has shown, I didn’t thereafter draw up a spreadsheet to keep track of my MOOC movement, and maybe should have! I’ve similarly enjoyed (and not enjoyed) MOOCs on a range of platforms: Moodle, Coursera, EdX, Canvas, Blackboard Coursesites, Curatr, Cloudworks+, and think I’ve signed up to a few on P2PU and FutureLearn. I think completion is a very small part of the story of learning through MOOCs [with my list of not completed’ MOOCs, I would, wouldn’t I? ;-)], and worked with other participants of OLDSMOOC to explore and present a paper on learner-defined ‘success’ in MOOCs.

I have an interest in design and management of online ed forums, and published with Tharindu Liyanagurwardena and Eileen Kennedy on some design patterns identified in MOOC forums. Looking at the questions opening this discussion, in light of that research, undoubtedly platforms matter in our pedagogy, in achieving interaction, given how they constrain or facilitate forums and conversation. So whether we can develop a pedagogy for large-scale learning depends also on practical and even technical points.

I have a follow-on question: Is attempting to develop a singular pedagogy to apply to every topic desirable?

Looking forward to the discussions


Hi Mike, hi all,

This is Howard Spoelstra from the Open University of the Netherlands. I’m a researcher at the Welten institute and a teacher in our Master Educational Sciences.

My experiences with Moocs are limited to dropping out of some really large Coursera-based ones and finishing a pilot Mooc hosted in NovoEd on problem-based learning (designed by Maastricht University). This Mooc tried a practise-what-you-preach approach and thus was designed after the problem-based learning theory. Beside platform issues regarding fitting PBL into an instructivism-based platform, my main issue with this Mooc was the limited information on other learners (mostly some preferences and a CV-like profile) and the platform functionality to form and support effective study groups.

About the issue of scale: Although Laurillard’s conversational framework is interesting (we use it in our course “digital media and learning”), I have doubts whether it can scale up.I think that 1) some roles it assumes (teachers) will not be available, and 2), when these are not available, it will be increasingly difficult to find co-learners/peer-teachers for meaningful communication.

Do we need to design new pedagogies for scaling up? Is that even possible without watering down these designs? I think we could take a look at earlier CSCL research and use it to design support for small groups inside these big Moocs. What I’m looking for is finding some middle ground between the “too closed” instructivist approaches that are likely not suitable for effective interpersonal development, and the “too open” connectivist approaches that might be asking too much learner self-direction powers.


Hi Ove Christensen,

Great to hear from you. I’ve started following you on twitter. I followed #ETMOOC for quite some time two years ago, for instance. Be nice to hear more about your research.



Hi Jenny,

Thank you for your reply, it made me laugh a bit because yes, I myself have the tendency to go off on tangents :wink: Thank you for the reference to the 2012 work. The concept of emergence is helpful, since structure is never a set property of one’s network; it is only a temporary product of preformed operations.

I did Social Network Analyses before of the (online) learning networks of migrant youths and from that started to understand more about structure and (distributed) agency. Agency in the context of MOOCs seems to me an important concept for research. Considering all the possible connections (and also possibly missing ones) that can be made in the MOOC space, how can we understand the experienced boundaries of that space. Design is an interesting one here too, because learners can (must) partly design their own experience, but of course withing certain boundaries (constraints, affordances) set by the course and experienced through the social structure of a person’s network. Learners can use non-human agency to their advantage and thereby build up capital, but can also succeed in wrestling authorial control by leveraging the code itself (See Keatinge, 2010). The issues around surveillance and control in MOOC spaces should be openly discussed.

Keatinge (2010) borrowed a definition of field from Bourdieu (Bourdieu, Waquant 1992:97): The field is defined by the “social network of relations among objective positions held by agents”. I think that considering the ‘positioning’ of learners is very important; not only the way they are positioned, and position themselves in their learning networks, but also in terms of their awareness of and orientations towards those networks (vis-a-vis, or emerged), and how those positions are either allowed in the social space of the MOOC or disallowed/discouraged.Still, within this definition above I wonder what is meant by ‘objective’, because in my view these positions cannot really be established objectively. For instance, user profiles are in constant flux (co-constructed through public posts, tagging by others, comments), so how can you assume some learners position objectively?

As for translation in practice, one caution will be to be very careful with re-segmenting (shrinking) larger, diverse, networks into smaller homogeneous ones (see also Vitak, 2012). Every time you ‘take away’ access to a larger network and restrain learners’ agency, you need to be transparent about it and the benefits need to be (made) apparent. I am all for ‘taking over’ learners agency temporarily (by providing scaffolds, for instance), but let’s give the students more opportunity to learn from this socio-cognitive apprenticeship by being transparent about the functions of those scaffolds…

To me this is all about supporting conscious connectivity (capacity for interconnecting). I talk about connectivity in my article (Prinsen, F., de Haan, M., & Leander, K. M. (2015). Networked Identity How Immigrant Youth Employ Online Identity Resources. Young, 23(1), 19-38.)

Be glad to talk further.



Thanks @hsp This sentence of yours, I think, hits the nail. For most learners you have to find that balance between restraints and freedom/openness. And as was the case in another string of this discussion the concept of ‘affordance’ beg to be included in the discussion. Affordance has been seen as a property of technology but more researchers as Chris Jones argue, that affordance has to be understood as a relational concept: “An affordance is only an affordance for something or someone and it is therefore relational in character. … Affordances are relational between the properties and features of the technology and the properties or features of the organism, person or machine making interacting with it.” (Networked Learning p. 32 and 34)
If we approach the issue of MOOC (or MOSL) design from that perspective we may be able to create an interaction between the platform, the subject matter and the peer students that better support the social aspect of learning.


Thx @Fleur_Prinsen,
I, too, have been following #ETMOOC and stopped at some point for some reasons. Probably because I follow way to many # on Twitter. #ETMOOC are still active I see. I follow the #CLMOOC - collaborative learning MOOC. It’s a very active community working from the connectivist perspective. Very inspiring.
On MOOCs my only research so far published in English is “Massive Open Online Social Learning (MOOSL)” http://blogomalt.blogspot.dk/2015/10/massive-open-online-social-learning.html

We’ll stay connected :smiley: :sunny: Best,


Well written and insightful blog post from you: http://blogomalt.blogspot.dk/2015/10/massive-open-online-social-learning.html. Thanks for sharing.



Uh, thanks, you make me :blush:


Thanks so much for your comprehensive and really interesting reply to my question. I’m not sure how much I can respond at the moment. I feel as though I need to read your paper first and Keatinge’s, but I am interested in your comments about agency.

In our work on emergent learning, we look at the balance between prescribed and emergent learning and the factors that might affect that balance. When considering agency and how much agency is achieved in a given learning environment we consider six factors

  1. cross-modal (the different modes in which learning can take place)
  2. open affordances (room for exploration and creative, innovative engagement)
  3. self-organisation (choices for personalisation)
  4. autonomy (how much choice learners have to create their own learning paths)
  5. negotiated outcomes (externally or mutually determined success factors)
  6. identity (learners developing their own roles, affordances and capabilities)

This is the brief version of what we have explored in our research!

Although you have written about it differently I can see some resonance between your thinking and ours.

Looking forward to reading your paper.


Hi Paige - so good to see you here and thanks for sharing your experience and work.

Is attempting to develop a singular pedagogy to apply to every topic desirable?

I was wondering if you could say more about this question and what sparked it. I need to think more about it. I find myself immediately thinking about educational philosophy and how that might relate - but as I say, I need to do some more thinking.



Hello all,

My name is Inge, and I have been interested in MOOCs from my first experience with CCK2008 (Connectivism and Connected Knowledge, ). Ever since I have been following the evolution of MOOCs (registering for more then I completed), and also organising two MOOCs on mobile learning (called MobiMOOC in 2011 and 2012, which now seems so very punk DIY - and it was).
I followed MOOC that were of the connectivist type (very open, yet very demanding in terms of creative production of content), and the more university style MOOC (Coursera, EdX, Iversity, FutureLearn). At this point in time I am nearly finishing my PhD on how experienced online learners learn in FutureLearn courses, an interesting journey as it tends to show me that people who learn are simply engaging in a very natural fact, thus using similar approaches true to their own nature and preference.


Hello everyone,

I’m delighted to see that a lively discussion is already in train. I have just returned from the mLearn conference on mobile learning (which is a topic for another day).

To begin, I’ll respond to a couple of posts (I’m sorry that I can’t reply to each of you!).

Frances Bell (Hi Frances!) suggested that I indicated lectures as something that scaled successfully. My point with regard to lectures is that the experience of viewing a lecture is much the same whether you are in a a lecture room with 200 students, or watching a lecture online with 20,000 MOOC participants. There are some advantages to viewing online - in that you have some control over the pacing, to pause and review the material. That it not to say that lectures are generally an effective method of teaching. My main aim is to explore those methods of teaching that may improve with scale.

In response to Howard Spoelstra’s comment about the conversational framework - it doesn’t necessarily assume a teacher as a conversational partner. A partner could be from the community of learners, a more able peer, or a trained teacher or facilitator.

When we developed the FutureLearn platform around a pedagogy of learning as conversation, we aimed to offer different types of partner to enable differing forms of conversation: peers to offer multiple viewpoints from differing cultural perspectives; colleagues for small group discussions and affinity groups; and teacher/facilitators to add an authoritative response or guide an argument.

We have found peers to be unexpectedly valuable on the courses, offering not only a diversity of viewpoints, but also expert commentary and links to supplementary materials. Some have, unbidden, taken a facilitation role - and on some courses there have been tensions between these ‘unofficial facilitators’ and the course tutors.

The conversational model is based on a theory of human cybernetics (originating from Gordon Pask and colleagues) and our finding so far is that at massive scale the MOOC courses reach a dynamic homeostasis, i.e. none have run out of control, even on controversial topics, but rather they become a productive and largely self-regulating community.


Hello Mike and Folks

It’s great to be here, and it looks like quite a conversation is underway already.

I’m Helen, and a while back I had quite a thing going with MOOCs. It started out with the Programme for Online Teaching (#POTCert) run by Lisa Lane and faculty volunteers from Mira Costa College, San Diego. It was designed as a project based/connectivist MOOC and participants had to blog their learning each week. I think it was put together on Wordpress. Nothing fancy any how, and nothing like the scale that’s associated with platform xMOOCs now. Any way, around the same time, at the start of 2013, there seemed to be a whole wave of MOOCs that I was interested in that could help me learn and connect with others for my professional development (learning and technology). I think I did a string of about 9 or 10 over 2 years. Because I’d started blogging and using Twitter most of these MOOCs or open learning opportunities were recommended by my personal learning network. As a result they were mostly cMOOC - only 1 or 2 were on the large platforms such as Coursera. I did the first run of eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC from Edinburgh Uni; I think there was 30,000 learners signed up.
These experiences enabled me to avail of opportunities to speak at educational conferences and to collaborate on a learner-driven research paper on learner-defined ‘success’ in MOOCs (OLDSMOOC). Shoutout to fellow collaborator, Paige, who I see is also here. And to Jenny who I’ve met along the way as well. Any way, I’ve just embarked on a PhD research journey at the OU where I’m hoping to investigate the area of professional learning in open networks. I am at the early stages (week 3), still trying to sort my networked learning out from my learning networks.

Looking forward to learning lots.