Category Archives: Social Media

Some thoughts on Dave Cormier’s Massive Open Online Courses for Network Creation

From the beginning of this course I stated that my intention was to explore how we can use the MOOC model and principles to engender the “large-scale and rapid social transformations I believe we need in this time of change, challenge and crisis.” (I’m not so much interested in the content of #PLENK2010 – PLEs & PLNs – as I am in the process.)

Dave Cormier’s video of a draft presentation touches upon this idea.

In the video Dave talks about how the MOOC model can be used to leverage the social web for:

1) Effective collaboration
2) Network creation
3) As a platform to learn how to use social media effectively

This takes the MOOC model well beyond a course for learning and speaks to what I’m interested in doing with it.

I would like to add the following possibilities to the list:

4) Community-building
5) Peer support and learning
6) Crowd-sourcing solutions

I’m sure there are many more.

So what interests me is whether the MOOC model be used to create an issue- or topic-based open network?

But what about the name?

An issue that has always bothered me about terms such as PLE & PLN is that they don’t seem relevant to the average user of social media. These people are using what we in educator-land call PLEs and PLNs all the time but they don’t call them that.

Of course social media users on the web are learning, but they are also creating and sharing and networking and a whole bunch of other things (in fact learners are doing this with their PLEs and PLNs too!). They don’t single out “learning” as the focus of what they do, yet lifelong & lifewide learning is embedded in what they do.

Are these terms self-marginalising? Do they limit the concept to the education sector only?

This takes us back to the term “MOOC” which, after all, stands for Massive Online Open Course.

If the goal is to extend the MOOC model beyond a strict learning or education focus then shouldn’t we come up with another name for it? Wouldn’t calling it a “course” hold it back from its full potential?


What about Massive Open Online Network?

Or Massive Online Network, since it’s only open in relation to historically closed courses anyway?

Or what about Massive Network, since the “online” is a given and therefore superfluous?

What about just Network, as they can small or large, depending on need?

Does it really even need a name?

Participating in a MOOC is like dining at a banquet

So I was checking the #plenk2010 Twitter stream on Hootsuite the day after our first PLENK2010 Elluminate session (recording available here) and I saw a lot of re-tweets for this blog post – PLENK 2010: Just Like ‘Watching Football’ – by Stefanie Panke. (Stefanie later got a mention by George in The Daily).

Stefanie doing a great job of knowledge curating

Stefanie’s post is a review of the Elluminate session. She writes about coping with the surfeit of information involved in a Massive Online Open Course and reports:

Stephen Downes encouraged participants to be selective in their attention and activities within the class. “Think of it as football. People do not stop watching football just because they cannot watch everything!”

(I quipped I’d be paying selective attention to the hot dogs at the time!)

Then in the post comments George Siemens pointed to a post by Leigh Blackall which in turn led me to George’s slideshow at SlideShare on Curatorial Teaching.

Cafeteria or buffet?

The sixth slide in the show is on the “Cafeteria approach to education”. The picture George used to illustrate this (see above, I hope George doesn’t mind me pinching it) looks less like a cafeteria to me and more like a smorgasbord or buffet.

And that got me thinking: to me, approaching a MOOC as I would approach a smorgasbord or buffet makes a lot of sense (and not just because I’m a foodie! :-))

You say metaphorical, I say analogical

Here are some of the ways I see dining at a banquet/smorgasbord/buffet as being analogous to participating in a MOOC.

  • You are responsible for getting your own meal.
  • You serve yourself when you are ready, rather than being served by someone else when they are ready.
  • There is a wonderful array of choices, with something to satisfy everyone.
  • We can pick and choose according to our own unique tastes and nutritional needs (I’m allergic to the Moodle forum. I just have to look at it and I break out in a cold sweat! :-))
  • There’s way more than I could ever consume (or even taste), yet I can appreciate the diversity of the food without having to eat, or even try, all of it.
  • If I try to take in everything I would just make myself sick. It’s possible to over-consume, whether it’s food or information. We need to be selective, learn to discriminate and not be too greedy!
  • I can get all the necessary nutrients and nourishment I need without eating everything on offer.
  • There are many things I have no interest in, and that’s just fine. It’s horses for courses (although steer clear of restaurants that offer horses for courses).
  • If I try something and I don’t like it, I don’t have to eat it. I can go back and choose something else.
  • We don’t have to test everything ourselves. We can ask others what they recommend. And we can steer clear of the dodgy prawns if people are screwing up their noses and leaving them uneaten on the side of their plates.
  • I can sample a much wider range of foods than I would be able to if I was just ordering a single dish from a menu. I can have a bit of this and a bit of that.
  • I can try new things I might never have tried if I was restricted to meals on a menu.
  • I can make up my own crazy combinations that wouldn’t make sense to others. Brussel sprouts and cheesecake? No worries!
  • I can make choices authorities may not approve of. Your Mum may not have let you pile your plate high with roast beef and nothing else, but if you want to, knock yourself (and your arteries) out!
  • There is a sense that we are participating in a shared social experience (any shared meal would do this, I guess, although I find buffets to be particularly fun).
  • It’s a more efficient system. You can eat as little or as much as you like, yet it still works out as affordable. There is less waste than when everyone is given the same meal size. Those who eat more are balanced out by those who eat less. You only take what you need.

Okay, I’m not so sure about the last one. Does it make sense to talk about efficiencies and waste in the digital realm where information is infinitely reproducible and distributable at virtually no cost?

But there is a sense in which MOOCs seem an efficient use of money and resources, by providing broader access to the learning experience for the same costs (to the institution) as traditional courses. The Wikipedia entry for buffet describes it as “a popular method for feeding a large number of people with minimal staff” and that seems to fit.

Football or food?

The smorgasbord analogy talks about consumption and so for me it’s a better analogy than the football analogy which talks about attention. When I consume something I take it in and digest it. When I’m giving something my attention that seems like a much more passive act to me.

What do you think? Does the analogy work for you? Can you see any other ways we can extend it?

Analogies can be wonderful things!

It’s surprising how powerful analogy can be. When Stephen mentioned the selective attention football analogy I felt a shift within myself. I relaxed and felt more confident about dealing with the information flow from the MOOC, and I saw others in the Elluminate chat have a similar moment. From the number of times it’s been re-tweeted it seems that the analogy struck a chord with many people.

For me the smorgasbord analogy takes that feeling of being able to relax and yet feel more in control even further.

It’s all a good reminder how right-brain activities like analogy, metaphor, imagery and symbolism can be just as effective in learning and cognitive change as rational thought.

Easier said than done

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. I still have a tendency towards gluttony. I have to keep reminding myself to pace myself. Too much of a good thing can still make you sick. I have a tendency to want to take it all in. This of course, is fear: fear that I will miss out on something; fear there will never be enough; fear that I won’t be good enough.

Abundance is good

To me, one of the greatest strengths, and greatest challenges, of a MOOC is the sense of abundance. We are provided with a veritable cornucopia of choices. This is a good thing. I’d rather have too much than not enough. When there is abundance we can choose to be overwhelmed or we can choose to relax and enjoy the plethora of options.

Now eat, drink and be merry!

So let’s tuck into the feast that is the PLENK2010 MOOC banquet and dine to our heart’s content (without pigging out)!

Yongfook – The Blog is Dead! (sorta)

The Blog is Dead! – SlideShare

To watch a video of Yongfook’s presentation you will have to go to: Ustream.TV: Yongfook talks about the move from blogging to lifestreaming and his Sweetcron, as I can’t embed videos here on (sigh).

You can read more on his blog post: The Blog is Dead! › Yongfook – Web Producer

I agree with what Yongfook is saying in this presentation – that people are using blogs less and other online services more.

I’ve come to realise that this situation suits me fine. I’m not much of a blogger, but I like capturing, sharing and somtimes commenting on what I find on the Web. I prefer to keep my blog for longer reflections.

You may have noticed that I have been a lot more active on the web of late. I’ve been Twittering more, I’ve been saving my bookmarks to again and I’ve started a tumblelog at (which posts to Twitter via twitterfeed, via my account). I’m currently streamlining my workflow so I can easily capture and share everything I come across on the Web that I find interesting or potentialy useful.

Eventually I’m going to move away from hosted Web 2.0 services (more about why I’m doing that later). I’m currently setting-up my own self-hosted online tools, using free and open software wherever possible. As part of this process I will be experimenting with Yongfook’s lifestreaming software, Sweetcron.

As an aside, I agree with Yongfook when he says WordPress is bloated. It’s become overly complicated and slow to use (on, at least). It’s suffering from featuritis (they’ve even added an RSS reader called “Readomattic” – only for blogs!) It makes a great Content Management System, but is not so good for quick and easy posting. It seems to be trying to be everything to everybody.

This is why I like microblogging with Twitter and, more recently, tumblelogging with tumblr – they are so much easier to use.

Seth Godin on Tribes

If you are interested in community formation and have an hour to spare you should check out this presentation by Seth Godin on Vimeo where he talks about the ideas in his book Tribes.

Here are the slides from the presentation:

Seth Godin on Tribes – SlideShare

Update – 13/12/08: As per Andrew‘s comment below the Vimeo embed is working now. Thanks to Andrew for posting the video online. See Seth Godin On How To Build And Lead Your Tribe. :

I would have embedded the video here as well, but when I tried I got this message:

Seth Godin on Tribes–via

Some “feature”! I’m not sure what Andrew Warner has against At least Seth lets me embed his slides. 😦