MOOCs – Which Way Now?

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The ALTMOOCSIG – the Association for Learning Technology (ALT)  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) Special Interest Group (SIG) –  is running a one day conference on MOOCs – Which Way Now? – on June 27th at UCL in London.

Frances Bell and I heard this week that the proposal we submitted to do a presentation about our research into rhizomatic learning has been accepted. We are delighted.  Here is our proposal outline, which is also on the ALT site.

The Rhizome as a Metaphor for Learning in a MOOC.

We recently participated in a ‘home grown’ MOOC- ‘Rhizomatic Learning: The Community is the Curriculum’ (#Rhizo14), convened by Dave Cormier and using distributed technologies of his and the participants’ choosing.

The concept of the rhizome as a metaphor for thinking was developed by Deleuze and Guattari in their book ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, published in 1980. This book, intended as an experiment in schizophrenic and nomadic thought, has captured the attention of some educators, who see the rhizome as a useful metaphor for understanding learning in open environments such as MOOCs.

#Rhizo14 attracted 500+ registered participants. Designed to run for 6 weeks, it continues via an active Facebook group and Twitter hashtag more than two months after the end of the MOOC.

The MOOC design explicitly modelled rhizomatic learning and thinking principles: there was minimal content or direction by the MOOC convener and participants were expected to create their own curriculum. Nomadic behaviours, lines of flight, multiplicities, the making and breaking of connections, subversive behaviours, territorialisation, deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation were all in evidence.

#Rhizo14 provoked us to conduct research to investigate learning and the usefulness of the rhizome as a metaphor for teaching and learning. The initial survey generated over 30,000 words of qualitative data from a survey completed by 47 participants. Current data analysis is generating key themes that will be explored with those survey respondents who have volunteered to engage in further email interviews.

We shall present our initial findings, which suggest that there are many aspects of the rhizome metaphor which are deemed useful for modelling effective teaching and learning in MOOCs.  There are also ambiguities and concerns, principally around the role of the convener, the role of power and politics in a MOOC of this type, the social structure of the community, and the nature of the curriculum.

What I am particularly pleased about is that this day conference is free. Frances and I are both independent and therefore will be paying our own way. Of course we still have to make our own way to London, but the fact that it is free was a significant factor in our decision to submit a proposal. So thanks to ALT for this.

We now have the not so easy task of planning the presentation, but it should be fun and the other sessions on the programme look very interesting. I am looking forward to it.

Finally – we are still working on analyzing the first set of data with a view to further email interviews with survey respondents who agreed to this.  We hope to be sending these out within the next week or two.

8 thoughts on “MOOCs – Which Way Now?

  1. keith.hamon May 31, 2014 / 4:23 pm

    Best of luck with the presentation. I’m excited to see your results.

  2. jennymackness May 31, 2014 / 4:50 pm

    Thanks Keith for the good wishes. The presentation will only be able to touch on initial tentative findings. We are still collecting and analysing data. And we only have 20 minutes in total – 12 minutes for presentation and the rest for discussion – so it will be over in a flash. We are nowhere near ready to publish. This is just an initial ‘heads up’. But we are both so pleased to have been accepted for this conference. It’s a great boost and it will be really helpful to see what responses we get. We will both be blogging about it – so look forward to your reactions too 🙂

  3. scottx5 June 1, 2014 / 4:39 am

    Yes Jenny and Frances, good luck and collect lots of feedback.

  4. jennymackness June 1, 2014 / 8:22 am

    Thanks Scott – and yes – we’ll report back 🙂

  5. sensor63 June 2, 2014 / 6:09 pm

    Look forward to reading your take on rhizomatic learning course 🙂

  6. jennymackness June 2, 2014 / 7:42 pm

    Thanks Simon, but hopefully it will be representative of ‘everyone’s take’, rather than just ours 🙂 We don’t have a lot to say just yet. We are still analysing and collecting data – so there’s a way to go yet.

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