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’:
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.”
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.
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😉