Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 39 seconds

Explaining cMOOCs & #rhizo14 authoethnography & #connectedcourses

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 39 seconds

Three loosely “connected” things are happening to me, all three related to “connectedness”, connectivism, and cMOOCs, so I thought I would blog about this to help me think through it all

1. Connected Courses
In chronological reverse order, last night I finally got around to reading about (and of course signing up for – how could I not?) “connected courses” (thanks to Terry Elliott who created a special twitter account for it, which reminded me of Penny Bentley’s tagging me to read Jim Groom’s blog post about connected courses on facebook, which had reminded me I had not yet read that blogpost of Jim’s – he sometimes blogs in bulk and I can’t catch up hehe)

According to Jim’s blog, Connected Courses is:

“The idea is relatively simple, we’ll be providing a framework and support for educators who want to explore what it means to teach a connected course. The dream is that it becomes a broader, inclusive community that fosters and supports ongoing collaboration and exploration.”

And the combination of people involved is breathtaking and for me, what’s the word? Alluring? I’m salivating from excitement 🙂 People who designed and facilitated #ds106 (which i admire from the sidelines, but Alan Levine says I can be considered part of coz i dip in to look and use the hashtag occasionally hehe), #clmooc which made my summer and was incredible, #etmooc and Alec Couros whom I am dying to work with, #femtechnet which I heard about a bit during #tvsz and look forward to knowing more about. Howard Rheingold, Mike Wesch – people I have read but never interacted with; but also people I have had the pleasure of interacting with like Mia Zamora and Kim Jaxon (during clmooc) and also more familiar people to me like Jim and Alan (with a photo of himself on that page, no less! Hehe)… I am so looking forward to this.

Interested? Sign up here. It sounds like a semester-long professional development heaven, to me 🙂

But also wondering why some others are not involved? I wonder if this can be considered a meta-MOOC and the Hybrid Ped folks can be involved with weekly #moocmooc chat; I wonder why Dave Cormier and George Siemens and Stephen Downes are not involved. I guess you can’t involve everybody but to me these people seem almost essential to this enterprise?

2. Considering designing a cMOOC
Ok, long story short, someone asked me if something they’re doing can be done as a MOOC. I won’t disclose any details, but my response was, it can be done as a cMOOC, not an xMOOC. However, few people really know what a cMOOC is or how it works! Facilitators and participants.

Way back when I wrote my first peer-reviewed article on MOOCs (never mind that it got published months later), I had yet to experience a cMOOC (my first experience easing into it was #edcmooc then it went fullblast with #rhizo14). Now, I almost cannot tolerate xMOOCs any more, and have had so many more cMOOC experiences. As AK wrote somewhere, it’s easy to take several xMOOCs in parallel, but if you truly engage with a cMOOC, you probably won’t be able to handle more than two at a time. That’s been my experience, too, although #rhizo14 is always in the background as a PLN/community, some of whom I also interact with in “new” MOOCs.

Anyway, my point is, that I think most interactive valuable learning experiences can be converted to online and massive – but not as xMOOCs, as cMOOCs. But I say this with lots reservation, because cMOOCiness is not something that I think everyone has the disposition for. And that’s a very tricky thing, as a lot of people can benefit from the learning that would result from it, but it’s not something intuitively easy for many people to do. It’s not just the social media literacy, the willingness to be open/interactive (people can learn a lot from lurking, of course, but they’d be missing out on some parts of the experience, if that makes sense? They’d learn from watching others interact, but not be central to that interaction, so there is an element missing), the info overload, the unspoken rules…

3. Explaining cMOOCs and the Collaborative Autoethnography
Which brings me to this final and important point: before I experienced a cMOOC, i had no idea what it meant each time I read it, reading about nodes, etc, made no sense. The only writing about this idea that made some sense to me was Dave Cormier on rhizomatic learning (thank you Jesse Stommel), and that’s how I got into #rhizo14 and my life was transformed into connectivist heaven 🙂 or some such utopia 🙂

Anyway, during the second week of enjoying that experience, I asked if others would be interested in researching the experience we were all having, and this eventually culminated into the collaborative autoethnography some of are all working on now.

One of my main goals for doing this was to find a way to get participants to narrate their own experiences of a connectivist course, how they navigate it, what sense of community inclusion/exclusion they felt, how it was for them. In plain English, not in complex theory language that will go over most people’s heads.

Scott Johnson once said that innovation or new ideas sound like noise at first to someone who doesn’t “get it” and I think connectivism is one such thing that sounds very much like noise to people.


I think connectivism sounds like “noise” to most people who have not experienced it. Heck, twitter sounds like “noise” (I keep resisting saying it sounds like Chinese because I am aware that many ppl in the world actually do understand Chinese!) when I try to describe it to someone. I want to find a way to explain it to people who are not social media active, or at least not toooo social media active. Many people are tech savvy and digitally literate, and still the idea of cMOOCs eludes them. It’s possible that cMOOCs aren’t for everyone, or at least won’t be in the near future… But something in the history of ed tech makes me think the future may be different.

I still remember when I first heard of email in 1993/4 in my computer studied class in school. Two people in the room had email: our teacher, and one student, and they talked about it while the rest of us understood absolutely nothing. We were like, “what’s the difference between that and a fax?”. Of course, a couple of years later, email was my life. Why would anyone use a fax machine? Fastforward 2006, when my friends kept talking about facebook and I was like, “how is that different from email?” But I joined anyway and… Well you know how that story goes. And then of course twitter, “how’s that different from facebook?” And you know… Well, now, I use twitter DM and facebook PM much more than email (reserved mainly for professional actually work stuff) and more often than not, something I would have have done privately ends u being public because I think it can benefit others to be made public. What a different mindset this is.

So I wonder what others think… Are cMOOCs incomprehensible to some people who never experienced them because of a literacy, skill, or mindset? Is it a matter of time before more people become open, connectivist educators (they’re related in my mind), or will there always be a group of us on that side of the fence, hopefully advocating and growing, but not the majority?

Do you think non-connectivist ppl could benefit from the connected courses MOOC thing? Or might it go over their heads?

Resources, anyone?
Oh, and if anyone has stumbled upon a description of connectivism that is clear to outsiders, please provide the link 🙂 Thanks. Until then, I’m sticking to rhizomatic learning, although I believe not all connectivist theory/practice necessarily fits that description.

13 thoughts on “Explaining cMOOCs & #rhizo14 authoethnography & #connectedcourses

  1. Maha, part of the mindset against (not for) cMOOCs has to do with not knowing. MOOCs are still spoken largely of as the X variety. If those that are in the know ignore cMOOCs then it perhaps tell us about what they think about cMOOCs. For example, there is a particular line of thought that xMOOCs are not good enough to develop competent computer science education teachers simply because you cannot just teach that as content. However, you hardly hear any conversation about how cMOOCs can help foster community development as an alternative approach to solving this problem.

    The cMOOCs thing is a big experiment and every cMOOC is an opportunity to explore different and newer ways of learning, doing! This sort of content is not yet appreciated by many. The content from most xMOOCs (hard facts, theories, etc) are still the kings.

    In 1997 one of my lecturers said to “email” him. He started rattling off his email address and when he got to the @ sign, i had to ask him to repeat. I was so embarrassed. A couple of years later it was better. The open mindset is important.

  2. Until I read this, I had no idea what I did not know — for example, what a xMOOC is as opposed to a cMOOC. I thought all MOOCs were cMOOCs, because that’s all I had ever heard of and experienced. This post is rich with new info for me to explore – thank you.

    1. Funny, that! Most ppl in higher ed are used to xMOOCs actually! Ur quite lucky u experienced cMOOCs. I wrote a while ago that I experienced sthg way back in 2003 called Ikarus which was v cMOOCish in the approach with hundreds of participants but social media was not as developed then so things were v different of course.

  3. Connectedness is the widest category. Connectivism is the narrowest category. And cMOOCs are just another way to weave one’s way between them both. We are the shuttles.

    1. i like that Terry. I am wondering, though, where openness lies? Will explore that in a minute in response to Alan’s comment

  4. Don’t get caught up in the “c” or “x” — they are, IMHO, an arbitrary construct across as Terry suggests (I think) a broader idea and mindset of being an open and connected educator.

    You bring such value, energy, and insight to these experiences Maha, already with a more than just a “Hello World” post. People learn how to be open connected educators and learners by participating as open and connected people.

    It’s pretty simple, And you do not need fancy technology or investment backers.

    1. hi Alan, nice to see you here 🙂 You’re right, though in the sense that “x” and “c” hide the nuances in the spectrum of MOOCing and open online education in general. I do think there is a MOOCing mindset that is much less open than another (again, along a spectrum) and that this needs to be discussed in the wider education community, not just amongst “us” – wouldn’t you agree?
      I agree completely about the not needing fancy tech or investment backers to learn in an open, connected way. I’ll probably write another blog post during the #WhyOpen MOOC about this, on the openness/connectedness thing. Man, I am already enjoying #ccourses and it hasn’t even started 🙂

    2. So I wanted to come back and ask this question, Alan: I agree we learn about openness and connectedness by BEING and DOING it. But how do you attract ppl unfamiliar with, uninterested in, or intimidated by all the openness and connectedness? To expand the circle or allow others a chance to experience this and decide if they want to do more of it?

  5. To balance out the quotation count: “I do think there is a MOOCing mindset that is much less open than another..” And I would agree. My image of a cMOOC is me standing in the grocery check-out line and openly commenting on what the person in front of me just said to the clerk or anyone else. I don’t wait to be invited into the conversation but just walk right in. Some people get upset that my social skills don’t include the understanding of what constitutes a “private” conversation–a kind of closed openness that separates what in the world is “your business” from what is there in plain view but to go unobserved.

    In my world if it is out there, it’s mine to note. Plus, I don’t intervene other than to add value (and often priceless insights) into the conversation lest it become lost in vacuous chatter. I will not be defeated by the pathos of the existential emptiness by virtue of adherence to the apparent need of others to be privately and distressingly uninteresting. People and the world itself improves with my presence and participation.

    Since I’ve lost track of what I intended to say, we might best describe xMOOCs as devices unaided by my intervention. Does that help?

    1. Love that insight Scott and the tone I detect behind it 🙂 “xMOOCs as devices unaided by my intervention” indeed… I’ll mull over what that implies, because of course there are many things in the world that are valuable for learning but not interactive, like them stupid books we all love to read. Sure, we interact with them as we read them but cannot comment directly or change them as we would a blog or wiki. More to think about…

  6. I’m not in the habit of butting into EVERY conversation yet there are some that seem to beg for my engagement. What is it that compels some of us to participate in a way that might be mistaken for intrusion into the “business of others”? Some cue ignites our inner urge to engage. Maybe we mistakenly feel invited or are losing our sense of separation. Empathy itself is a form of close listening and we are helpless to resist and may actually NEED within ourselves to be active to understand. Having been around life-guards and swim instructors for years through Leslie’s job, I think some people thrive on walking in without knocking as actually a form of deep respect for the world needing their help.

    It’s possible my troubles in school were a foolish expression of independence that disallowed receiving assistance? Teachers were trying help and I read “intrusion.” Through illness I’ve learned that dependence is a form of gracefulness. A form of receptivity that may be the balance to my need to intrude being a gesture of giving. It could be that xMOOCs are the sort incomplete object I imagined the one-way nature of school to be? Years of listening restlessly to be asked to participate, not just take tests and write empty essays and reports. Again I’m struggling to make sense–sorry.

  7. Hey Scott, well I am glad you decide to participate in many conversations I am in, because you bring so much into them 🙂

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