Orienting myself to the Change 11 MOOC

I have signed up to the Change11 MOOC and feeling a little bit wary as day job is intensely busy and I am not sure I can make the commitment.  Of course, the reason that I have signed up is that I had such an interesting experience at CCK08 (and a few interesting moments at CCK09,CCK11). So let me start by thanking the organisers George Siemen and Stephen Downes for giving that opportunity.  This week is orientation week, facilitated by George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier and I am so keen that I am posting my first blog post before the course has properly started (this keenness could wear off, I have to say).  One of the things that I have really loved about engaging with the CCK MOOCs is that they have really challenged me and made me think, and being the pedant academic that I am, I am keen to engage with that challenge now.

Jenny Mackness posted about the Change11 MOOC, and in the replies Heli Nurmi (a valued member of my network encountered in CCK08) alerted us to an exchange on Jeff Lebow’s blog about some MOOC-related activity to which Stephen Downes.  This really did make me think!

Stephen Downes replied to the post that referred to Collaborative Open Online Learning as follows:

I resisted commenting when I first saw the alternative ‘Collaborative’ name mentioned, but now I regret that.

But I do feel it worth mentioning here that the structure and nature of a MOOC is exactly not ‘collaborative’. Let me explain.

Most definitions of ‘collaborate’ focus on the idea that a group of people are working on something in common – shared aims, shared objectives, shared project, etc. and very often they result in becoming a group, a team or a cohesive community.

MOOCs and the connectivist approach to learning, as I have argued elsewhere, is by contrast ‘cooperative’. There is no presumption of unity, order, shared goals or coherence. There’s no sense of being ‘in the group’ or its opposite. If teams or groups form, they are tangential to the course, and not the core or essence of it.

So, if you are discussing ‘Collaborative Open Online Learning’, you are not discussing MOOCs. Perhaps you are discussing things like WikiEducator or OERu, where everybody is pulling the same way. I don’t know.

For more on this, see my stuff on ‘groups and networks’:

- http://www.downes.ca/post/42521

- http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_downes/252157734/

- http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/groups-vs-networks-the-class-struggle-c…

- http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4126240905912531540

- http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/10/that-group-feeling.html

My first thought was that Stephen had appointed himself as the MOOC definition policeman. The discourse about who ‘owns’ a term is slightly incestuous and I have already commented on this with respect to MOOCs.

However, Stephen’s next comment really fascinated me:

Either way, whatever Google says, the aim of a MOOC is *not* to “Act jointly; work toward the same end.”

I replied:

That is an interesting approach Stephen. You seem to suggest that there is one aim for a MOOC.  Of course in any human organisation (i.e. involving more than one person) there may be multiple aims, possibly overlapping but distinct.  What would you do if a number of people decided to work jointly towards a common end on your MOOC?  Would you ban them for disobeying your network principles or your MOOC definition?

The picture below is the England Cricket team winning a game in the Ashes tournament in 2009.

England mob Swanny by RNLJC&M

England mob Swanny, a photo by RNLJC&M on Flickr.

This team had a common goal – to win- and worked together to achieve it – they collaborated, even if only temporarily.  By Stephen Downes’ definitions they were a group at that point in time. However,they may have had individual, overlapping goals: to get better job offers, to increase their merchandising and advertising revenue.  Such is the complexity of human activity!

So are George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier a team, a group or a network?  If they are a network, can they have a common aim for Change 11, and where is it?  I couldn’t find it though Stephen contends  that the aim of a MOOC is not to be collaborative, or to act jointly toward the same end.  Well that lets George and Dave off the hook if they disagree with that aim, but then it rather dents the ‘aim of a MOOC’.

So where am I going with all of this?

If a MOOC, particularly a CHANGE MOOC is about being open, promoting knowledge as a network of people and things, how can it proscribe forms of human organisation?

Bring it on #change11 ;)

33 thoughts on “Orienting myself to the Change 11 MOOC

  1. Great thinking here, Frances.

    Without having a common definition, how do we even we are speaking about the same thing? Then again, this is as easily defined as actor-network theory or postmodernism!

    I do like your pushing the boundaries so early in the “course,” whatever a “course” means if there is little structure (or perhaps rather if there is maximum creativity?)?

    Jeffrey

    • @Jeffrey

      >’Without having a common definition, how do we even we are speaking about the same thing?’

      This has made me wonder whether we ever know that we are speaking about the same thing? Definitions are as problematic as they are useful. Stephen highlighted this is his guide to logical fallacies – http://web.uvic.ca/psyc/skelton/Teaching/General%20Readings/Logical%20Falllacies.htm …. where he writes about the Fallacies of Definition.

      Do we need to have a definition of what a MOOC is? If autonomy and diversity are two key principles of connectivism, for which MOOCs are a testing ground, then does it follow that there will be many different interpretations and people are free to make their own decisions about it? I’m still thinking about this.

      • I am not sure that we do need a tight definition of a MOOC, or even that would work. Everything is so fuzzy and we need to tease out ideas. Thanks for reminding me about the Fallacies of Definition, it takes me back to a discussion in CCK08. I suppose then that in the quote I give above, Stephen Downes was describing rather than defining MOOCs, according to his own terminology. However, as with the whole ‘groups and networks’ thing, it feels pretty pretty definitive to me. When he says “the structure and nature of a MOOC is exactly not ‘collaborative’” I smile, as I am sure there will be collaborative learning taking place via this MOOC. The organisers provide the structure at some level (though tools and services allow us to add our own structures) but it will be the participants who are mainly responsible for the nature of the MOOC, and that will be diverse.

      • Jenny-

        Great seeing you here, Jenny!

        I have been thinking about this, and have come to wonder more about this concept of definition in this context. In other words, if connectivism is autonomous and diverse, that does not really tell us enough about it to separate it from other endeavors.

        My point here is more along the line of enough of a definition of #change11 to know what this central topic is. For example, how to you describe #change11 to other people who may know nothing about this at all, without making it sound so open and dynamic that it really does not say anything at all?

        Jeffrey

    • Hi Jeffrey – Great to see you hear too – although I don’t know where you find the time to be involved in all these distributed conversations that you seem to have all over the web :-)

      >How do you describe #change11 to other people who may know nothing about this at all, without making it sound so open and dynamic that it really does not say anything at all

      This is an interesting question. I can’t imagine being able to do it with a quick and easy definition – but I suppose I would base my answers on the principles of autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity. I’ll go away and have a think about it :-)

  2. Due to my limited EFL knowledge I have to ask: Is “the aim” the same as “one unique aim” ? And is “aim” the same as “end”, i. e., a node in the graph? Connectivism shifts focus from nodes/ vertices to connections/ edges, so I think the difference between a direction and an endpoint is significant.

    • @Matthias
      >And is “aim” the same as “end”
      In my career in teaching, we would always distinguish between these i.e. between learning objectives and learning outcomes. The outcomes would be assessed. The objectives would determine what the teacher taught and how s/he taught. Have I missed the point?

  3. Frances, wow. Very interesting stuff already. This topic came up on the teleconference yesterday. Though Stephen wasn’t involved in that, the distinction between the co-operative approach of a MOOC rather than it being collaborative was made and was put down to the strict definition researchers who are involved in the area use, whereas to others that distinction was of less importance.

    Mark

  4. Some comments from my mind: There is NOT any strict scientific definitions about collaboration and co-operation, there are many. But this is not the focus here. Wikipedia says something about those concepts but it can say whatever it wants :)

    Open online courses cannot be owned by anybody, I suppose. It is sad or ridiculous to be at odds with each other in this question. During eduMooc some participants wrote an article about What is a MOOC to Wikipedia… they can write and edit it forever but do we become wiser? I have heard best discussions in Jeff Lebow’s MooCast (eduMooc) – real listening and dialogue, appreciating participants, using everybody’s experience.

    I hope someone understands what I try to say :) Thanks to Frances for mentioning me as a valued member of network, happy about it.

    • I love your references to dialogue (as I see it an open exchange where people may change their minds). My thinking is that definitions of groups (that I reject – it being a very fuzzy word) and networks as in some sort of binary opposition are not helpful to the work of people working with things (like online resources) to achieve something for the benefit of themselves and others – i.e. it’s about the practice of teachers and learners

  5. Pingback: Orienting myself to the Change 11 MOOC | Change11 | Scoop.it

  6. My reading of the comments that you have posted is that a MOOC allows for such human organisation and collaboration, but in allowing for this to happen it is not what the MOOC sets out to do, it is not a defining aspect of a MOOC. These structures are based on each person having their own intention and purpose (which is why I avoid the word course), and that may or may not include such things as joining groups or collaboration on common goals. Even when these common goal groups form, they are just one of many potential ways that individuals can act on their own intention. This doesn’t change the nature of the MOOC to be intention-free in itself. Not holding a presumption of something doesn’t mean to proscribe it.

    I might say that the Participation Suggestions heavily suggest group forming and collaboration, but that’s slightly different.

    • Glen – I agree. That’s how I see it as that fits with the principles of autonomy and diversity inherent in MOOC design (at least in the MOOCs designed by Stephen et al.). There are some intended objectives for MOOCs, (e.g. the course will take place in distributed environments) but whereas in most courses objectives are closely linked to outcomes through assessment, in MOOCs, there is no such expectation.. In MOOC design it is recognised that the learning outcomes will be unpredictable and emergent. The design principles specifically encourage this.

  7. Frances, you write, “You seem to suggest that there is one aim for a MOOC. Of course in any human organisation (i.e. involving more than one person) there may be multiple aims, possibly overlapping but distinct.”

    No – just the opposite.

    By saying that “X is not the single aim of MOOC” I am not saying that there is a single aim of MOOC. By the same token, if I said “Frances to not the king of France,” what I say is true, but I am not implying that there exists a king of France.

    In fact, it is just *because* there is no single aim for a MOOC that ti is not collaborative. If you look up the various definitions of collaboration, you’ll find that they almost all involve working to some common aim or objective. But as you point out, in a MOOC, there may be multiple names.

    That’s exactly why I say a MOOC is cooperative, not collaborative. People in a MOOC may have different aims. So they are not collaborating. Yet they share an environment, may communicate with each other and exchange resources. Hence, I say they are cooperating.

    None of this rules out collaboration among subgroups in a MOOC. I know people desire to collaborate and I encourage that. They should be able to collaborate if they wish. However, *their* collaboration does not become *the* aim of a MOOC – because a MOOC has no single aim.

  8. (two awful typos – let’s try this whole comment again – just ignore the previous one)

    Frances, you write, “You seem to suggest that there is one aim for a MOOC.”

    No – just the opposite.

    By saying that “X is not the single aim of MOOC” I am not saying that there is a single aim of MOOC. By the same token, if I said “Frances is not the king of France,” what I say is true, but I am not implying that there exists a king of France.

    In fact, it is just *because* there is no single aim for a MOOC that ti is not collaborative. If you look up the various definitions of collaboration, you’ll find that they almost all involve working to some common aim or objective. But as you point out, “in a MOOC, there may be multiple names.

    That’s exactly why I say a MOOC is cooperative, not collaborative. People in a MOOC may have different aims. So they are not collaborating. Yet they share an environment, may communicate with each other and exchange resources. Hence, I say they are cooperating.

    None of this rules out collaboration among subgroups in a MOOC. I know people desire to collaborate and I encourage that. They should be able to collaborate if they wish. However, *their* collaboration does not become *the* aim of a MOOC – because a MOOC has no single aim.

    • Thanks for explanation and the logic lesson;) – now that I understand what you said, I can see why you are saying that the MOOC is not collaborative. Also, I am very pleased to note your encouragement of collaboration and that MOOCS do not have a single aim.
      My delay in replying was because I have been on a short holiday.

  9. Pingback: Orienting myself to the Change 11 MOOC | A New Society, a new education! | Scoop.it

  10. Pingback: What does it mean to cooperate and or collaborate in #Change11 MOOC? | Learner Weblog

  11. Pingback: Definitions, diversity, emergent learning and responsibility in MOOCs « Jenny Connected

  12. Apologies for having deserted this thread. I am on short holiday and will be back online in a couple of days. All looks very interesting :)

    • and that leaves me with a mooc that may or may not be collaborative, at least in as much as some bits of it might collaborate, some might converge, some might clash, and some might not even know they are on the same mooc…
      reality is mutliple :)
      and distributed learning is very vibrant.
      Now i really must go back into hybernating, i promised myself only 30 mins a day on this mooc. But its so nice to *see* others again here and there. Hi Heli and Jeffrey and John and Jenny and Frances and Stephen and hi also to people i havent *met* before, look forward to seeing where this takes us, so hi to Glenyan and Markuos and Matthia also.

      • Not to take more than your already-spent 30 minutes, Ailsa, but I can’t help but wonder, given your statements “and that leaves me with a mooc that may or may not be collaborative, at least in as much as some bits of it might collaborate, some might converge, some might clash, and some might not even know they are on the same mooc…
        reality is mutliple” — what is a MOOC at all? You just described all online communication, MOOC or NO-MOOC!

        Jeffrey

      • You know, Jenny, if it were just communication, then that is that. However, for it to be a course it would seem there would need to be some central theme, as well as intention.

        I think I will work this into my own next blog posting, as I need to process this a little more. Perhaps that is part of the intention here?

        Jeffrey

  13. yep i just did. I think of a mooc as an example of distributed learning, and where are the boundaries on that?
    This distributed chatter on other people’s blogs is also distributed learning…with or without a label. So what makes it a mooc? Naming it,and enrolling the actor you me others..& because I’m overtly ANT minded…dont forget the #tag getting domesticated to our purpose and we to it…and the internet because this would not be viable otherwise.
    Yes learning used to happen slowly pre internet, there were hardcopy journals and our conversations could occur in the letters to the editors in same, but such learning was incredibly slowly paced, most oftentimes years apart with the conversations. And there were/are conferences…but with a mooc there’s a container of time, a starting and stopping point- in as much as people agree to it, and there’s points of contact, points to connect to, and its a little more immediate because of this. But again because I think with ANT sensibilities such endings are arbitrary, such borders arbitrary.
    However i elect to join with this mooc recognizing a tentative boundary of topics re change, and learning.
    And the dates have been set, but if i wan to ignore these i can…previous moocs had dates too, but some of the connections made rumble on regardless.
    When can i say learning stopped or started? I cannot take a previous mooc out of my head and say it no longer has influence. Learning leaves taints of influence regardless of any set borders.

    My apologies Frances, I feel like Ive taken over your lounge. Next time i will just post and point out my answer is elsewhere. maybe.

  14. Pingback: Clarification on the question, “What is a MOOC?” « Silence and Voice

  15. Pingback: Orienting myself to the Change 11 MOOC - Frances Bell | Connectivism | Scoop.it

  16. Hi Frances

    I just came across “Thoughts on Connectivism” (George Siemens via Debbie Kroeker, April 15 2011)

    http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=55250

    And “Elements of Connectivism” (September 22 2011)

    http://www.downes.ca/presentation/279

    Also, his useful talk on “Communities and Networks” (July 7 2009)

    http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/communities-and-networks

    You may well have found these already. (Of course, I haven’t yet read the comments above, and my comments are probably redundant!).

    I, too, am struggling with this (Connectivism). I’m drawn to the idea, but am suspicious of binary choices. Perhaps group and network structures co-develop and morph between one another (and other structures) over time. Think of how we represent molecules using simple ball-and-stick models, even though we understand that we are dealing with clouds of probability – dynamic systems that cannot be discussed adequately using static media and fixed states. It’s not the frame, it’s the movie.

    Cheers,

    Mark McGuire

    http://markmcguire.net/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s