OLDSMOOC was launched today and as you would sort of expect, Cloudworks crashed under the load of people attempting to join the event. I was fortunate. I got in early enough to be one of the 100 people who could view the OU hosted event – but those arriving later, or trying to get in via Youtube or Cloudworks were disappointed. Much frustration was vented on Twitter, which the OLDSMOOC team, to their credit, did their best to contain.

It’s worth noting though that this is not the first MOOC to start in this fashion. Change11 was the same and that turned out to be a very worthwhile MOOC from my perspective. So it is early days for OLDSMOOC, although I do wonder why they have gone for such a complex and prescriptive design. We now know from other connectivist MOOCs that simplicity is the key to MOOC design – or at least apparent simplicity for the participant, which is not easy to achieve. I know from experience with FSLT12 that it is certainly not simple from the designer’s perspective – and of course the more people you get signing up, the greater the risk of the system crashing. So hats off to Stephen Downes and George Siemens for managing more than 2000 participants in the first connectivist MOOC in 2008 (CCK08), when they didn’t even anticipate the numbers who attended. An amazing achievement looking back on it.

The OLDSMOOC Launch was presented by Yishay Mor – who spoke to this Prezi presentation http://prezi.com/b44jwdgvs8nl/olds-mooc-introduction/

OLDSMOOC is thought by the conveners to be different because it is a project-based MOOC. The intention is that participants will work together in groups to produce a learning/curriculum design.

This of course raises questions such as What is curriculum? What is learning? What is design? and the presentation took us through various definitions of design. Perhaps the most recent definition of design quoted was from Grainne Conole’s forthcoming book:


And another recent definition from Mor and Craft

Mor and Craft

A point worth noting for our US colleagues is that learning design is considered to involve different thought processes to instructional design, which is thought to be a more linear process. (09-01-13 See Update from Yishay Mor at the end of this post)

According to Diana Laurillard teaching should be seen as a design science….


…..which prompted George Roberts on Twitter to ask the question

What is a “scientist” in the sense used in ‘learning as a “design science”‘ by @yishaym in #oldsmooc launch? Broad, narrow, or commonsense?

There was only one comment made in the presentation that I felt I could strongly resonate with and that was by Yishay Mor when he said

‘Design practice helps teachers share their practice’

This makes sense to me in terms of the work I have been doing with Roy Williams and Simone Gumtau on emergent learning, where we believe that drawing footprints to describe the relationship between prescribed and emergent learning in any given course, helps to raise awareness of learning issues and establish a dialogue around those issues. For further information see Footprints of Emergence.

I will probably not be working on a project for OLDSMOOC. My interest in curriculum design at the moment is related to prescribed, emergent and embodied learning – perhaps there is some overlap, but I think we (i.e. Roy, Simone and I) are probably coming at curriculum design from an alternative perspective…….but I will be following OLDSMOOC from the sidelines and am interested to see how it works out in terms of its own design intentions as a MOOC.


090113 Re Instructional design – this is a message from Yishay Mor via Twitter

Hi @jennymackness, I actually claimed that #instrcutionaldesign is more linear, and #learningdesign more messy / iterative #oldsmooc

24 thoughts on “OLDSMOOC Launch

  1. fred6368 January 8, 2013 / 7:38 am

    Great post Jenny, very thoughtful, I think I pretty much agree with all of it. Good for OLDSMOOC for getting people to work on projects as a useful way forward, but the attendance patterns of MOOCs suggest active lurkers (who reflect on discussions) rather than practical builders immediately acting on the world, partly because of the medium. I too have questions on the the science thing, especially if the project is future facing (science examines past data); science is the wrong metaphor for learning.
    However if OLDSMOOC can get “learning design”, as a way of thinking about how we can support the learning of others, foregounded, instead of the dreaded American Instructional Design, a military-based system of training, then it will have done something useful.
    Incidentally on the curriculum point for years we used to say we need a “community-responsive curriculum” for learning to be socially inclusive, and Dave Cormier says the ‘community is th curriculum’ In WikiQuals, where each Sqolar decides their own curriculum, we will be working on the ‘community is the curriculum’ concept by developing practically our concept of ‘affinity groups’ supporting individuals self-determine learning.
    As we probably agree learning itself is emergent, the trick is to design systems that enable that emergence, rather than design systems that disable out with instruction.

  2. Scott Johnson January 9, 2013 / 5:24 am

    Hi Jenny, this sounds extremely useful and refreshing after so much exposure to backwards design (from the pages of the second law of thermodynamics and anti-emergence theory).

  3. jennymackness January 9, 2013 / 7:00 am

    Thanks Fred and Scott. Re ‘community is curriculum’, although Dave Cormier appears to have popularised this idea, it first cropped up for me in Etienne Wenger’s 1998 book on communities of practice – see p.100 where he writes – ‘Note that the curriculum is then the community of practice itself.’ Is it significant that Wenger writes that the ‘curriculum is the community’, rather than the ‘community is the curriculum’ ?

  4. Cris Crissman (@Cris2B) January 9, 2013 / 7:49 am

    Thanks, Jenny, for beginning this conversation about OLDS MOOC. I confess that at this point in my learning career, I tend to rebel against prescriptive teaching (though come to think of it I always have) so the structure may be a turn-off. But I’m thrilled to have a chance to learn more from Diane Laurillard. She was one of the few guests in Change 11 who did not have a live session but I read her book on teaching as design science and found much that resonated with me — http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415803878/ I’ve always felt more like a designer of experiences than a facilitator of curriculum-learning. So I’m very hopeful for the OLDS MOOC.

  5. jennymackness January 9, 2013 / 10:09 am

    Hi Cris – thanks for your comment. I’d like to know more about why teaching as a design science resonates with you and what you think are the differences between being a designer of experiences and a facilitator of curriculum learning. Doesn’t one precede the other? Have I misunderstood you?

  6. simon walker January 9, 2013 / 11:10 am

    Thanks for good post and comments, Jenny (and commentators). Looking at the participants in the OLDS-MOOC I would agree that the level of expertise, and likely engagement by participants, would make ‘community as curriculum’ ring true here. I’m not sure this would be the case for all MOOCs though, in the same way that a university community (staff and students) supports social interactions but doesn’t make a curriculum. Very interested in your Footprints of Emergence. We have been working for some time on the notion of a design notation, sharing designs, and computational support for this, and this has now been written up as the Larnaca Declaration of Learning Design: http://bit.ly/WtK8mg (the experience of warm Cyprus September sun helped with the thinking) but its the tip of the iceberg!

  7. simon walker January 9, 2013 / 11:16 am

    Hi Jenny, many thanks for your useful posting (and other commentaries). Given the level of expertise in this MOOC, and likely level of engagement in ideas, the notion of community as curriculum rings true. I’m not sure if other MOOCs are the same, in the way that a university community supports social and learning interactions which only form part of the curriculum – it depends on intentions as well as the supporting infrastructure and stategy.
    I liked your footprints of emergence. We have been working on learning design notation, sharing, and computational support for some time and recently produced the Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design (http://bit.ly/WtK8mg) – a grand title which seemed a good idea at the time and no doubt helped by warm September Cyprus sun and other incentives).

  8. jennymackness January 9, 2013 / 8:17 pm

    Hi Simon
    Thanks for your comment. You have written:

    > I’m not sure if other MOOCs are the same, in the way that a university community supports social and learning interactions which only form part of the curriculum – it depends on intentions as well as the supporting infrastructure and stategy.

    I don’t think I understand what you are getting at here and it would be great if you could expand.

    I look forward to reading and learning more about your Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design.


  9. Cris Crissman January 9, 2013 / 9:49 pm

    Don’t you just love it, Jenny, when someone asks you a question and you can say, “Oh, I just happened to have blogged about that”? This blog describing how I connected with Laurillard’s pedagogical patterns concept will look familiar. I actually recycled my #FSLT micro-lesson for a local reading council. So know that that work has a come in very handy.

    What I don’t mention in the post is the essence of what Laurillard’s work says to me — that how we teach affects how our students learn. I smile as I write that and think how simplistic but yet university teachers can be some of the worst teachers in the world yet expect their students to learn regardless. As a teacher-educator, I feel enormous pressure to design experiences that help my graduate students understand why the “how” is as important as the “what.” I can indirectly impact thousands of future students of these pre- and inservice teachers. Some get it. Some don’t.

    And it is the how that makes me feel more the designer than the facilitator. I used to choose the metaphor of facilitator in describing what I do but not since I began to experience networked learning. My class is not a community with a common goal that I as a facilitator can help them identify and work toward (my take on facilitator). It’s definitely more of a network with each node focused on what they can get from the class, and it’s up to me to design experiences so they understand how a network both within class and beyond works so they can reap the benefits long term. I think the collaborative critical inquiry from my #FSLT project is a pretty good example of my design efforts.

    Thanks for the question. Always good to check in on how I’m thinking and especially good timing as the OLDS MOOC begins.

  10. Sylvia Currie January 10, 2013 / 2:58 pm

    Jenny asks: “Is it significant that Wenger writes that the ‘curriculum is the community’, rather than the ‘community is the curriculum’?” They’re getting at the same idea, but to me “curriculum is the community” speaks to the purpose and intentions first. The other way around it sounds more incidental, and maybe even more individual. And now that I’m writing this down the line seems very fuzzy! 🙂

  11. jennymackness January 11, 2013 / 12:01 pm

    Cris – thanks for reminding me of your blog post and for your answer to my question. I think I still have a bit of a difficulty accepting and either/or approach to design and facilitation. You have explained very clearly what you mean by design and it makes sense to me – but are you not a facilitator too?

    Interesting ideas. Thanks.


  12. jennymackness January 11, 2013 / 12:05 pm

    Hi Sylvia – great to ‘see you’ here. Thanks for your comment and for your thoughts about the difference between ‘the curriculum is the community’ and ‘the community is the curriculum’. I always think Etienne chooses his words very carefully, hence my thinking this must be significant in some way. But like you, I find it a little difficult to put my finger on exactly what the difference is.

  13. Diana Laurillard January 12, 2013 / 4:11 pm

    Are we designing or facilitating? Which leads – community or curriculum? Interesting issues, and a good discussion.
    I think Simon is right to distinguish between different types of MOOC. The OLDSMOOC is the more typical, in my experience, because it is a community of experienced peers, who can learn a lot from each other, and who will thereby embody the curriculum. But when I’m in a MOOC about AI techniques I’m a real novice, and need the curriculum to define the community of other novices with whom I’m learning.
    So an important distinction could be between the ‘professional’ MOOC and the ‘student’ MOOC. The former requires facilitation and can be lighter on design, but the latter definitely needs design as well as facilitation. The former is a good model for CPD, the latter would be more like an undergraduate course (which then needs an awful lot more learning design than the basic MOOC usually provides).
    At present, the basic MOOC is ok for CPD, but still needs some good learning design. It’s not really enough to say ‘here are the concepts, now go and discuss among yourselves’. I’ve just experienced a MOOC a bit like that, and it’s just not enough. It needs more design oomph to make it fly – which it didn’t!
    I wonder if we’ve done enough in this MOOC to achieve that…

  14. Diana Laurillard January 12, 2013 / 4:17 pm

    In answer to George Roberts’ question on Twitter – What is a “scientist” in the sense used in ‘learning as a “design science” – this is the pithiest way I can put it: “Teaching is more like a design science because it uses what is known about teaching to attain the goal of student learning, and uses the implementation of its designs to keep improving them.” (Teaching as a Design Science, 2012, p1).
    So neither scientist nor artist, but rigorous like a scientist, and creative like an artist.
    [Try as I might I could not get that into 140 chars!]
    Does that make sense?

  15. jennymackness January 14, 2013 / 1:10 pm

    Diana – thank you for your two comments. I like the fact that you think ‘teaching is rigorous like a scientist, and creative like an artist’. It’s all that’s ‘hidden’ in those few words that is intriguing.

    Thanks also for your comments about community, curriculum and design. Rather than write a lengthy response here, I have written another blogpost with some of my thoughts. Hope you won’t mind that I have quoted you there.


  16. roy January 14, 2013 / 2:52 pm

    Jenny …

    … thanks for throwing interesting cats amongst us pigeons.

    My first reaction to Yishay’s Prezi was indigestion, I’m afraid. I support the Clint Eastwood ‘less is more’ approach to teaching/practice/design.

    And on ‘science’: The exiting thing about science is that it is only as good as its next hypothesis. The whole point of science is to find new ways to (rigorously) describe what we already think we know, and even more so, to describe for the first time what we don’t understand at all. (Technology is another matter).

    Diana …

    … love your distinction between ‘student’ and ‘professional’ MOOCs -(so much better than ‘c’ and ‘x’ MOOCS). The AI MOOC was indeed an excellent ‘student’ MOOC, even if that makes it open with a small ‘o’ (i.e. a MoOC). We could also call them ‘apprenticeship’ v. ‘mastery’ MOOCs, which opens it up to more possibilities, no? I guess this is an attempt to shift the distinction from an implicit flavour of ‘levels’ to a distinction based more on the ‘point of engagement’.

    ‘Point of engagement’ is part of what we tried to map out in Footprints of Emergence research that Jenny mentioned, above (http://footprints-of-emergence.wikispaces.com/). One of the aims in curriculum design might be to allow for different points of engagement for different people. This is, in principle, possible in both apprenticeship and mastery MOOCs (to different extents), but not in traditional curriculum design (as it is implemented in outcomes based ‘higher’ education).

    And … how do you see the relationship between design and facilitation on the one hand and ‘structure’ on the other hand? In the ‘footprints’ research we are specifically looking at designing for complexity and for emergent learning. To do this, we need to turn conventional curriculum design on its head – in designing for complexity (and emergent learning) you design by ‘negative constraint’ – i.e. defining what is NOT going to happen, rather than by positive outcomes – i.e defining exactly what MUST happen.

    This should enable you to achieve an ‘open structure’ – or an ‘open design’ in your terms, in which there is more space for facilitation (rather than instruction), but there is still structure and constraint, and lots of ‘design’. (In fact maybe even too much, to go back to the indigestion/ less is more remarks at the top of this post – in the footprints design/description template, we currently use 24 factors to describe the dynamics of emergent learning!).

    One of the interesting thing about emergent learning is that the boundaries between design and facilitation become much more blurred – in designing by negative constraint, you might say that you ‘design the facilitation more, and design the structure less’.

  17. roy January 14, 2013 / 3:15 pm

    Jenny, and all, community/curriculum/community? I go back to what I take to be Bev Trayner’s radical notion of an apprenticeship-led-curriculum, which is that the core of the practice that you are learning ‘for’, (not ‘about’) is the look, and feel, and smells, and bumps and obstacles, and joys, of how your subject is practised. It’s the stuff that you learn when you start off as a gofer, or a articled legal clark, and an ‘intern’.

    It’s what happens in practice (and is only derivatively, selectively and abstractly depicted in books and courses). And that’s what you really have to learn, and to like.

  18. Scott Johnson January 15, 2013 / 5:33 am

    Hi Jenny, Roy,

    Like to hear more Bev Trayner and apprenticeship led curriculum. Having worked with apprentices the basic notion, though not always practiced, was to allow apprentices to take on the identity of trade membership from the start. By seeing through the eyes of a member it was hoped that learning became “relevant” to the apprentice in a more complete way than being held in novicehood until “graduation” as seems to be practiced in education which seems intent on enforcing a state of passive observation to reinforce authority and “place.”

    Much here about the design of teaching theory. Is there a school of learning theory also? Only seems fair.

    Thanks for the comments on OLDSMOOC Jenny. It isn’t too bad, managed to find my way back to myself in under a day:-)

  19. roy January 15, 2013 / 10:44 am

    Hi Scott, interesting distinctions between ‘novice’ and ‘apprenticed member’. Tell me more …

    My (cursory) knowledge of apprenticeship in the pre-WWII era, was that it meant a commitment on both sides – you were apprenticed for a number of years, and were given some status as a result, unlike ‘interns’ who are often not much more than temps, gofers or dogsbodies.

    You’ll have to go back to Bev (and Etienne Wenger)’s writing for more on apprenticeship-led curricula. I dont know the detail – perhaps Jenny knows more?

    What struck me about this upside down (or right-way up?) way of approaching the curriculum – (particularly having done two years of academic medical training, and then taking a post as a medical assistant – working in theatre, dentistry, wards, emergency care, in a rural hospital) – is that it provides you with a really valuable embodied, and practice-embedded framework, and experience, which you can ‘make yourself at home in’, and use for making sense of something as strange and confusing as a new ‘profession’ or ‘trade’.

    If you don’t have that, all you have is what your lecturer tells you in good faith. And even in medicine, some of the lecturers are just academicians – researchers, not clinicians (and not both), and they get exited by books and ideas and what’s in their test tubes, rather than what’s happening outside.

    That’s fine if you want to get a job inside (as an academic), but not much use to you if you want to get a job outside.

    In research in medical education I came across an example which highlighted this distinction. It concerned a cardiology lecturer who taught the same class of students (in year 3) academic cardiology, and (in year 4) clinical cardiology, and he couldn’t understand how his excellent students in year 3 had become so stupid in the holiday between year 3 and 4. What eventually solved the problem was the realisation that he expected them to interact with the medical data in the ward (the actual patients) quite differently from the way they interacted with the medical data in their course (in their text books). When he told them how to do so (to use iterative, exclusionary diagnostic decision trees on the ward), all was well, to everyone’s great relief.

  20. jennymackness January 16, 2013 / 10:50 am

    Hi Roy and Scott – many thanks for the discussion and comments.

    Roy – it would be good to unpick with concrete examples what designing by ‘negative constraint’ – i.e. defining what is NOT going to happen, rather than by positive outcomes – i.e defining exactly what MUST happen – actually looks like in practice. I’ll give it further thought. Thanks.

    Scott – thanks for your comments about apprenticeship. When people talk about apprenticeship, Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger’s book on situated learning immediately comes to mind and you might like to check it out if you haven’t seen it already.

    Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press

    And Etienne also discusses this in his 1998 book – Communities of practice. Learning, Meaning and Identity.


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