Change MOOC starts Mon 12th Sept 2011….

….. with an orientation week. For those who don’t know, a MOOC is a massive open online course. Details about this particular MOOC about  Change: Education, Learning and Technology can be found here and the weekly schedule can be found here: Change MOOC Schedule

Stephen Downes has posted this presentation:

How to Organize a MOOC

As someone who attended the first MOOC run by Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier, I am particularly interested in how their ideas have been developed and refined since 2008. This is evident throughout this presentation, but my attention was drawn to slides 60 – 67, where Stephen Downes outlines the principle characteristics of MOOCs –autonomy, diversity, openness and interaction.

It is interesting to compare how these characteristics were described in the 2008 slideshow  Connectivism: A Theory of Personal Learning (2008) (slides 63-67) to how they are described in the slideshow How to Organize a MOOC  recently presented … and then again  … how they are discussed in this blog post – Connectivist Dynamics in Communities – in 2009.

From my perspective and recognising that everyone will have a different perspective on this, particularly Stephen himself, there have been the following shifts:

  1. Diversity: has shifted from being about the diversity of the environments to the diversity of individual perspectives
  2. Autonomy: a subtle but important slight shift from managing your own learning to including recognition of individual values
  3. Openness: less of a shift here, but an indication of moving from a view of openness as being about inclusion (no barriers to being in and out) to being about openness as flow of information (no barriers to flow of information)
  4. Interaction: The idea that knowledge is in the network, not in the individual remains, but the shift seems to be in dropping the word connectedness – perhaps assuming that this is a given in people’s understanding?

These shifts in the way in which language is used are important. For me they are reminiscent of the process of nominalisation that scientists work through when refining their ideas and searching for more economic ways of representing them. For example when Newton was working on the concept of force and shifted from talking, thinking, writing about objects pushing and pulling each other to the word ‘force’ to describe these actions. (I think I have written about this before somewhere – it often crops up).

Here it is not so much about nominalisation (the words autonomy, openness, diversity and interaction are still the same ones as were used in 2008 and before), but it is about refining our understanding of them. If MOOCs are going to become a common phenomenon, which seems to be the case, then we will need to continue to unpick, refine and share our understanding of their basic principles.

More information about Change MOOC 2011 can be found in this slideshow:


16 thoughts on “Change MOOC starts Mon 12th Sept 2011….

  1. francesbell September 12, 2011 / 10:30 pm

    Thanks for this Jenny. I have had a look at the How to Organize a MOOC slide show.
    One thing that really fascinated me about CCK08 (and to a lesser extent next two) was the fixedness or otherwise of the curriculum – in that case the ‘theory’ of connectivism. To me it felt like connectivism was posed as something to be ‘learned’ whereas the participants were madly theorising, some of them using connectivism as a trigger for their personal (changing and developing) theories. That was what made it exciting for me. I cannot confirm your (convincing) analysis of the shifts in meaning of diversity, etc. (because I haven’t been able to repeat your comparison – lack of time). My attention is currently on openness (a motherhood and apple pie type of word) that we looked at last week at ALTC2011 see!/search/%23opencost

    I am really hoping that this change MOOC is characterised by real dialogue where participants are willing to change their minds and acknowledge the shifts and development in their thinking. As we said last week at ALTC 2011, let’s surface our assumptions and ask the questions that might be resisted;)

  2. jennymackness September 13, 2011 / 10:35 am

    Hi Frances – thanks for your interesting comments.

    I don’t think there will be any agreement any time soon about whether the curriculum was fixed or not, whether connectivism is a theory or not and so on, but I think we are beginning to see patterns emerging in our collective understanding of some of the principles. I’m probably talking off the top of my head here 🙂

    I didn’t manage to get to ALTC2011 even remotely, but I was aware of your slot and your paper. Had I been able to attend the conference your session would have been at the top of my list. Is your paper openly available anywhere 😉

    I think we are probably working in parallel. I am currently working with Carmen Tschofen – – on a paper in which we are trying to unpick what autonomy, diversity, openness and connectedness mean for individual learners, so I would be very interested to read your paper.


  3. Heli Nurmi September 13, 2011 / 6:24 pm

    Hi Jenny
    It is fine to have many open courses nowadays.
    I followed or lurked actually the eduMooc which ended some weeks ago. I found many interesting learning circles and together-doings – for instance this video – I can see those 4 beautiful principles (listed in your post) alive in this session. Jeff is very open, skillful and all participants respect each other etc. They want to hear from new European projects, it was nice to see..
    I continue to follow many open studies and it is nice to hear from you. You will tell about your article with Carmen I suppose?

  4. jennymackness September 14, 2011 / 7:16 am

    Hi Heli. Great to hear from you. Thanks for sharing the EduMOOC video, which I haven’t had a chance to watch yet but I have got a train journey tomorrow – so that will be the ideal opportunity. I didn’t get a chance to even look in on EduMOOC, but the comments I have seen about it have been positive.

    When you say -‘learning in many interesting learning circles’ – does that mean you were working in Google+ and if so, how did that work out. I have an account, but I haven’t got going yet. I need to be convinced that it is more valuable than Facebook, where I also have an account that I hardly ever use.

    Hopefully Carmen and I will get our paper published in an open journal and that this won’t be in the too distant future. I always underestimate the time it takes to write these things. I know some researchers rattle off papers. Just don’t know how they do it 🙂

    Looking forward to working with you again – Jenny

  5. Heli Nurmi September 14, 2011 / 1:45 pm

    Hi Jenny,
    here is the link to all Moocasts of eduMooc facilitated by Jeff Lebow. I listened the recordings and enjoyed really: they speak about all the moocs or open courses since 2007.
    Here you can see what’s happening in near future One Google?Hangout is today 15.00pm London time. These are really open and inquiry oriented. Jeff says he is world-bridge-guy

    It was Vance Stevens who has organised learning2gether happenings, you see the link address in podcast chats and Vance takes part in discussions.

    There are discussions about the concept MOOC or COOL or what is the best, who owns the concept look at the names…

  6. jennymackness September 14, 2011 / 7:08 pm

    Hi Heli and Frances. As you say Frances – this is very interesting. Thanks Heli.

    I still haven’t had a chance to watch the video – but issues surrounding ‘What is a MOOC?’ are also being discussed in the ChangeMOOC Research Google Group.

    I’m still thinking about it. Not quite ready to comment yet – but I do have some thought emerging in the back of my mind 🙂


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