The Rhizome: a problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC


(Source of image:

Drawing ‘boypoolrhuzome’ by Dr Mark Ingham, Reader in Critical and Nomadic Pedagogies at the University of the Arts London LCC

Our second paper which explores how the rhizome metaphor was understood in the Rhizo14 MOOC (Rhizomatic Learning. The Community is the Curriculum) has finally been published by The Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.

Mackness, J., Bell, F. & Funes, M. (2016). The Rhizome: a problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC. 32(1), p.78-91 Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.

The paper was accepted following revision in response to reviewers’ comments last July, so it has felt like a long wait, but there have been some changes of the Journal’s staff and website so I think a bit of a backlog built up. The Editors were very patient with our ‘nagging’ 🙂

The body of work we have developed in relation to the Rhizo 14 MOOC is now growing. The first paper was published by Open Praxis.

Mackness, J. & Bell, F. (2015). Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade. Open Praxis. 7(1), p. 25-38

We have also given a couple of presentations and written many blog posts

18-06-2015 Mackness, J. & Bell, F. Teaching and Learning in the Rhizome: challenges and possibilities. Mackness & Bell Conference Submission 2015 . Blog post about the presentation

27-6-2014 Mackness, J. & Bell, F. ALTMOOCSIG Conference The Rhizome as a Metaphor for Learning in a MOOC. See also Emerging ambiguities and concerns for blog posts about this presentation and the related Prezi.

A third paper has just today been returned by the reviewers and will hopefully be published within the next three months.

The second paper about the rhizome metaphor was really enjoyable to work on as it introduced us to new authors and presented us with many challenges. As always we worked on a private wiki to collect, share and discuss resources and our thoughts, as well as paper drafts.

At the beginning we were inspired by this website – Nomadology  – and wondered whether we could present our paper as an interactive document in this way (with no beginning and no end), but it was not to be. Even our attempt to present the paper as independent sections (mimicking Deleuze and Guattari’s plateaus) did not work. Ultimately, we shared the concerns expressed by Douglas-Jones and Sariola (2009):

– we are recognizing the academy’s need to communicate ideas in writing, in a linear format. Even if methodologically and theoretically we become more rhizomatic, the imparting of knowledge currently requires some arborescence. (p. 2) ( cited in Mackness, Bell and Funes, 2016, p.87)

For now, I’m OK with that, but it would be good to see the development of more creative, multi-media and interactive ways of presenting research and discussion papers. If nothing else, it could make the papers more fun to work on and multi-media might help to explain the work more effectively.

5 thoughts on “The Rhizome: a problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC

  1. francesbell January 20, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    Thanks for announcing the paper with such interesting ideas about forms of presentation. The traditional journal article form, even when published open access can be constraining, and this is good and bad. I am grateful for the reviewing process though – I think it has made our first and second papers better and hopefully will also improve our third paper and get to publication before too long.
    I am also hopeful that we will receive constructive engagement with this second paper – to develop ours and readers’ ideas.

  2. Yin Wah Kreher (@yinbk) January 21, 2016 / 8:03 am

    The new year has begun well! Congrats for the publication of the second paper! Thank you for consolidating the resources here. This makes it easy for me to access and refer to them when I need to re-read something. More later!

  3. jennymackness January 21, 2016 / 9:15 am

    Yin – good to know that rhizomatic learning interests you and that these resources might be helpful. Of course our work is from a specific perspective, but once you start digging there is a lot of good stuff out there, as we have found in working on these papers. It’s all fascinating stuff 🙂

    Thanks for the congratulations.


  4. miartx27 February 22, 2019 / 8:14 pm

    Drawing ‘boypoolrhuzome’ by Dr Mark Ingham, Reader in Critical and Nomadic Pedagogies at the University of the Arts London LCC

  5. jennymackness February 24, 2019 / 8:30 pm

    @MIARTX27 – Thanks

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