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


Hi Jenny,

Very interesting, the six factors, and useful to getting some grip on level of agency.

Autonomy for me is a tricky one, because I think it is interwoven with the other factors… aren’t the choices in creating your own learning path at least partly determined by the open affordances available in the space (if you recognise them), and by the affordances for self-organisation (which might have to be negotiated with the level of organisation imposed by the organisers of the course). Same with roles and identity - I think the possibilities for you to be (be recognised) and become, are constrained by many factors in the social space you enter into. It’s almost a philosophical discussion about free will when you enter into dicussions about autonomy. Same time, (experienced and granted) autonomy is very much linked with your competencies…

Talk more later. I’m gonna see if I can catch up with reading some more contributions here :smile:



Hi Jenny, great to be in this shared space.

I’ve been pondering this as something that emerges from experience of teaching online at the OU UK (not only my own experience but that of colleagues too). However I think this might be something in the ether right now rather than an original contribution (!), as since posting this I have spotted related comments in your blog on the new Edinburgh University Manifesto for Teaching Online:
"There are many ways to get it right online. ‘Best practice’ neglects context. "

I think treating all MOOCs as a singular or even having a similar context will lead us astray. (And treating the context of all learners on a given MOOC even more so). Whilst there is much to be gained by challenging /sharing ideas about different pedagogies in this sector, seeking some uniform concept of ‘successful pedagogy’ for MOOCs will take us backward.

As both a teacher and a learner, I find different pedagogical approaches useful at different times and sometimes for different topics. Is uniformity aka ‘best practice’ or ‘a pedagogy’ desirable? [being just a little contentious here ;-)]


@Fleur - just a quick response for now and I’m sure @dustcube (who I worked with on this) will have something to add, but first, we do not talk about competencies in our work. The six factors are not measures in any way and although I listed and numbered them they are not treated separately in the way we use them to investigate learning in different environments. As you say they are all interrelated and influence each other. It is all very complex :smile:


Hi Inge, good to see you here, your MobiMOOC is one I loved but had to dip into due to work pressures…interestingly the the DIY feel created a sense of peers collaborating rather than being instructed, which I’ve thought about a lot since then with regard to how learning for continued professional development differs from a first foray into a topic area. That is, that first steps feel more secure in a heavily structured and instructivist space, but once you’re underway the connectivist approach becomes possible. That self-direction in the early stages of learning in a topic area might be expressed in finding the appropriate ‘course’ to lay foundations, in contrast to later development where we seek out conversations. So yes, you can see even brief involvement in a MOOC can provoke thinking :wink:
Really looking forward to your completed thesis.


Could you guide us to any publications about this? It sounds like an amazing achievement. I would like to learn more about it.



Hi Helen - glad you’re here. Good to have a mix of new and familiar faces - this is already looking like an interesting conversation and has me returning to things I’ve not thought about for a while and discovering work I’d not seen before. Talking of which, have you seen the range of emoticons offered here? They include a burger, a tree and a football… I think I’ll need to randomly select from these to see their effect :eyes:


You can find a paper by Rebecca Ferguson and me on Innovative Pedagogy at Massive Scale and the design of productive communities for MOOCs here: 1. The full citation is:

Ferguson, R. & Sharples, M. (2014). Innovative pedagogy at massive scale: Teaching and learning in MOOCs. In C. Rensing, S. de Freitas, T. Ley & P. J. Muñoz- Merino (Eds.) Open Learning and Teaching in Educational Communities, proceedings of 9th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL 2014), Graz, Austria, September 16-19. Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 98-111.


Thank you so much!



Would it be an idea (and even possible) to show the twitter stream somewhere in this hot seat space. It might be nice to show the backchannels as well …?


Good idea - The twitter activity relating to this discussion is, however, very, what so say: sedate? :smiley:


Good question; I have no idea. I tend to doubt it, though will look into it and let you know . . .


Then perhaps you missed my Tweet #Haiku this morning! https://twitter.com/JeffreyKeefer/status/659006290920759296


Yeah, @jeffreykeefer, I noticed your tweet - I referred to the activity - not the single tweets. Liked yours a lot :smile:
I don’t know how we can kick more activity out in the open so more people will share their two cents.


I am very interested in your work Sebo, as I was involved for some years in a face to face parent’s group associated with an adolescent mental health unit. Please correct me if I have misunderstood but I think you are using a MOOC model, and I wonder why you would use that model rather than a Community of Practice or Community of Interest model. I am also curious about the ethical issues as the families will inevitably discuss patients and staff who aren’t there. My experience was in a small group face to face setting and we could iron out the ground rules fairly easily.


Dear Frances,

Thanks for the interesting questions. For now the MOOC is just a start of what might become a community of practice or interest. It is aiming for sharing knowledge about the rights of a participation council (MR) and the way they best can advise their counterpart in the organisation. It might be true that at one point the conversation will be more in-depth about the clients themselves or staff. But for now the members don’t share a lot of information about their own practice. The organisation has a lot of information they would like to share with the members and also discuss with them in what way they can use it in their role as advisor. Still your idea of using the model of a community of practice or interest is provoking. I will think about it longer and get back to you.


@Sebo @francesbell This is interesting Sebo. I agree with Frances that what you have described seems to lend itself to a community of practice model. MOOCs are open to anyone and are ‘courses’ and as such are time bounded. A community of practice can be open, but usually requires membership and can be closed. I am think of the online parenting communities of practice that have been so successful in the past.


@jennymackness @francesbell thank you for asking me questions and providing me with suggestions that sharpen my ideas. Perhaps it is a good idea to elaborate a bit more about the goals, the phase of development and the way I understand CoP’s and MOOCs, or want to understand them :wink:

First the group itself consists of members of councils. They are official advisors of the local and regional managers. But of course their first aim is to take care of the home for their family-members, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, etc. They get together only a few times a year and most of the time their conversation is nothing more then sharing information. The organisation would like them to ask more in-depth questions and act as a critical friend, also being able to think more strategically.

For me the MOOC gives the organisation the opportunity to start working on the connection between the members (the community), working on the domain itself, and interact about the practices. I expect the dialogues at first to be very factual. But the MOOC in that case service a couple of aims, getting people to become acquainted with the idea of sharing information and having a dialogue in the broader community then their own small group, sharing knowledge about their role, about the proces of consultation and about examples of how it could be working.

I can imagine that the MOOC can result in the start of different CoP’s, but maybe I am too optimistic about that. The MOOC for me would not be an open one, but only open for the members of the participation councils of the specific organisation. Maybe I already start using the MOOC platform in servicing different CoP’s?

Finally I don’t know if you know Wengers latest book on learning in landscapes of practice? It provided me with a different and interesting perspective in which I think experts in the organisation I am working for could act as systems conveners.


Hi everyone, I am sorry to have missed out this week and I am just catching up on the discussion. When I read this I wondered about the notion of networks of practice to cover the larger scale kinds of connections you are describing Sebo. Both Thomas Ryberg and Maarten De Laat have written about the common features and differences between networks and communities and I wonder if they’d like to comment.

If we are working at scale what kinds of links are likely to develop between people and groups and what kinds of relationships would we want to encourage?


Hi Chris, Good point and with Sebo i have been chatting about this (he is a phd candidate of mine). Scale is a difficult issues. What works for one group maybe be not suited for others.
Perhaps an interesting article we recently published on the social configuration of groups might be a pointer to look at. Here we argue that for any given group it might be useful to reflect on several social dimensions that impact their social learning and organisation. This social dimensions framework is the result of a literature review on social learning in communities, networks and teams.

Here is the link:

Hope it works.


We are nearing the end of a week of hot seat discussion. I’ve been delighted and intrigued by the directions that the discussion has taken, encompassing communities of practice, social construction of knowledge, and of course haiku.

There’s a tendency to view developments in learning in terms of dichotomies and then to seek ‘middle ground’ between these. In MOOCs, there’s a search now for the middle ground between instructivist and connectivist MOOCs. Is that possible? And if so what would be the learning experience? Or are we able to find a pedagogy that transcends these, through technology-orchestrated systems at massive scale, where knowledge comes from the interplay of perspectives and cultures, and where expertise is valued both for its intrinsic worth and for its organising power? some questions to ponder.

Having been engaged in the design of platforms for massive-scale learning, I’m optimistic that these can be sustained, but only if we gain deep understanding of cultural as well as individual differences.

Thanks everyone for stimulating conversation - and enjoy the weekend.